The marriage amendment and political whiplash




It’s unfortunately not all that unusual to see political leaders stop on a dime and change directions on political issues — just to score points with the media and interest groups.  North Carolina State House majority leader Paul Stam (R-Wake) has taken an opportunity to point out some of the folks in North Carolina politics who are currently opposing the marriage amendment to the state constitution that were singing a quite different tune not too long ago:

There is an epidemic of political whiplash being spread by North Carolina Democratic leaders. In 1996, then Senator Beverly Perdue voted for G.S. 51-1.2 – Marriages Between Persons of the Same Gender Not Valid.

“Marriages, whether created by common law, contracted, or performed outside of North Carolina, between individuals of the same gender are not valid in North Carolina.”

Joining Sen. Perdue in voting for this statute were Sen. (now Attorney General) Roy Cooper and Rep. (later Speaker) Joe Hackney. The statute sets the policy that no same sex marriages will be recognized in North Carolina. It does not matter whether they are “common law” or “performed” in or outside of North Carolina.

In September of 2011, Minority Leader Joe Hackney said that the Marriage Amendment which accomplishes a similar policy (as he voted for in 1996) is a form of “hate speech” and Gov. Perdue now says it “writes discrimination into the Constitution.” But she apparently favored writing discrimination into the general statutes- an odd distinction.

But the general policy is the same. Rep. Bill Faison, now running for Governor, made that point on April 16, 2012. Appearing on WRAL’s Gubernatorial Debate he repeatedly stated that the law, G.S. 51-1.2, and the Marriage Amendment are exactly the same. He was almost (but not quite) right.

The policy is similar but the reason the Marriage Amendment has been proposed to the people is because of the actions of a half dozen courts around the country. They have taken state constitutions just like ours and declared that the same policies as our statute, G.S. 51-1.2, violate the state constitutions. So the need is there.

But although admitting that the policy is similar Rep. Faison is for the policy as a statute but against it as an amendment, although the need for the amendment is plain for all to see. Do you have a headache yet?

Even stranger is the position of Rep. Bob Etheridge who wants to be governor. As a member of the United States House in 2004 he voted for House Joint Resolution 106, which proposed an amendment to the U.S. Constitution:

“Marriage in the United States shall consist solely of the union of a man and a woman. Neither this Constitution, nor the constitution of any State, shall be construed to require that marriage or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon any union other than the union of a man and a woman.”

He voted for a similar resolution in 2006. The U.S. Constitution, pursuant to the Supremacy Clause, takes precedence over the constitution and laws of North Carolina. Rep. Etheridge was fine with making such a policy of a higher order of authority than our State Constitution, but he now opposes putting the same policy into our State Constitution.

But the prize for contradictions goes to Lt. Governor Walton Dalton. In 2005 as a state senator he was a sponsor of a marriage amendment (SB 8) which provided:

“Marriage is the union of one man and one woman at one time. This is the only marriage that shall be recognized as valid in this State. The uniting of two persons of the same sex or the uniting of more than two persons of any sex in a marriage, civil union, domestic partnership, or other similar relationship within or outside of this State shall not be valid or recognized in this State. This Constitution shall not be construed to require that marital status or the rights, privileges, benefits, or other legal incidents of marriage be conferred upon unmarried individuals or groups.”

His explanation why he sponsored this legislation in 2005, which he now opposes, is that he was then representing his senatorial district and now he seeks to govern the state. Perhaps the voters of his former senatorial district will take note that he no longer agrees with them and they are free to disagree with him.

Democratic leaders are in a hopeless state of confusion, falling all over themselves to attack a policy they enthusiastically supported in the recent past.

Although Lt. Governor Dalton’s version is much wordier than what our voters will decide on May 8, 2012, it has the same legal effect.