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Proposed N.C. amendment targets marriage definition

by Anna Johnson,

With a conservative majority in the North Carolina General Assembly, residents may soon see a proposed constitutional amendment defining marriage as a union between a woman and man. 

The proposal, sponsored by Sen. James Forrester, R-Gaston, has been co-sponsored by Sen. Rick Gunn, R-Alamance, and in previous years never made it out of committee. But opponents of the bill believe with Republican control of the general assembly it could make it to the ballot.

"This is a real threat," said Shawn Long, executive director of Equality North Carolina, a statewide group dedicated to gaining equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. "We do believe it is possible to stop it but it will be a tough fight with the new make up of the legislature." 

North Carolina is the only southern state that has not passed a constitutional amendment banning same sex marriage.

By allowing this issue on the ballot, legislators are putting up civil rights on the chopping block, Long said.

"We believe it is wrong to put the minority up for vote," he said. "It really puts gay people's basic dignity up to a vote."

Gunn and Forrester did not respond to phone messages.

Sophomore Ben Poole co-teaches a Winter Term course about "bursting the heteronormative bubble" and said this type of amendment sets back individual civil rights.

"For me, when I was thinking about this, I wanted to know what are they protecting," Poole said. "You see people get married and divorced all the time, so what are they protecting?"

With the state of California debating its own version of the amendment, Poole said he believes it will take a decision by the Supreme Court on gay individuals to be allowed to marry in all states.

"It's not going to happen in individual states," he said.

If students want to help, they are encouraged to write to their representatives or visit the NC Equality website, Long said.

The proposed amendment is currently in committee.