The public is confused about Amendment One, the constitutional amendment vote regarding same-sex marriages that will be put before state voters in May. Not hard to believe. Nearly all amendment votes in any state involve some amount of head-scratching largely because of how they’re worded. It’s legal stuff. In some cases it’s mumbo-jumbo and in others it’s intentionally misleading.
I’m not sure the latter fits in this particular case. My hunch is both sides on this debate want the vote to be pretty clear.
The GOP-led legislature voted to put the measure before voters in spite of some question about the amendment’s ability to stand up to national constitutional scrutiny and the fact that gay marriage is already not legal in North Carolina. Even Speaker of the House Thom Tillis seems fuzzy about the whole thing now, saying recently that he thought the amendment would pass in May but be changed over time down the road.
So it’s easy to understand why the people voting on it have questions. Here’s one I got from a reader via email last week.
“I believe the public needs some education — through a very informative newspaper article — about the upcoming North Carolina Same-Sex Marriage Amendment vote. And a “cut-out” chart would be helpful for the people to carry with them to keep the “For” and “Against” clear.
As I understand it, voting FOR the amendment means that one is voting AGAINST the right for same-sex marriages, and voting AGAINST the amendment means that one is voting FOR the right for same-sex marriages. Please tell me if I have it wrong.
The wording is quite misleading, and many people may vote opposite from the way they feel and actually want to vote.
This would be a great public service on the part of the newspaper. Running something fairly soon, and then having a follow-up “reminder” story closer to the voting date would clarify this.
I will not tell you how I plan to vote because that has no bearing at all on having these educational stories run.
Thank you for helping the public understand all of this.”
MY TAKE: It is, indeed, confusing. And for the record, this reader has it mainly right in terms of what a vote for or against Amendment One means. But I do think it’s a good idea to explain the issue better in upcoming editions of the Times-News. We’ll certainly do so.
The bottom line is this: A vote for Amendment One bans gay marriage, civil unions and domestic partnerships in North Carolina— at least until a court rules otherwise.
How the amendment is worded, though, isn’t the only point of confusion. According to a new poll conducted by Elon Universityand released today, answers about the question of gay marriage an same-sex unions vary according to how a query is posed.
The new poll indicates that six out of 10 people inNorth Carolinaoppose an amendment to the state constitution that prevents any same-sex marriages, domestic partnerships or civil unions. Meanwhile, 32 percent support the amendment.
Other findings include:
Thirty-eight percent say they support full marriage rights for same sex couples, up from 36 percent in February and 33 percent in November.
Twenty-nine percent oppose any legal recognition for same sex couples, down from 32 percent in February and 35 percent in November.
Support for civil unions or partnerships for same-sex couples, but not full marriage rights, was at 29 percent, one point higher than in February 2012.
The entire thing is such a morass that the Elon poll folks issued an editor’s note with today’s results. It reads:
The March poll’s question on a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage represents a change to the way the Elon University Poll has asked respondents about the issues involved in a ballot measure. In previous surveys, the poll asked whether respondents would support or oppose a constitutional ban only on same-sex marriage rights. In the February 2012 poll, a second question was added, asking whether respondents would support or oppose a constitutional ban on domestic partnerships or civil unions.
In the latest poll, all three components – marriage rights, domestic partnerships and civil unions – were included in the wording of one question.
Poll leaders caution against using previous data about a constitutional amendment to draw conclusions about direct shifts in attitudes toward such an amendment.
As far as the Times-News editorial stance on the issue goes, we’re opposed to the amendment for a variety of reasons, but the largest is the question of whether it’s the government’s job to tell people who they can or can’t marry — or whether a church has to sanction a marriage that violates its principles on religious grounds.
The government needs to stand down.