Same-Sex Marriage in North Carolina: A Practical Imperative


Since 2012, when the state of North Carolina passed a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage and the president of the United States subsequently came out in support of legalized same-sex marriage, the issue has been at the forefront for all North Carolinians. This is an issue that elicits passion from both sides. Some argue that same-sex marriage threatens to erode the fabric of the American family. Others argue that same-sex marriage should be legalized for a host of reasons, including concerns about healthcare provisions to same-sex couples. Ultimately, the issue is one in which various federal courts have weighed in, and a majority of states now have some form of legalized same-sex marriage. Even despite some of the arguments to the contrary, same-sex marriage should be legalized in North Carolina because it represents a fundamental right and because it is a suitable practical solution for same-sex couples.

Polling demonstrates that same-sex marriage is gaining popularity in North Carolina. When the state’s voters decided by a 22-point margin that same-sex marriage should be banned in 2012, the state made a strong statement against the practice of same-sex marriage. However, things have changed to some extent. A poll from Public Policy Polling in April of 2014 found that North Carolina voters favor a same-sex marriage ban by only 13 percentage points. This is a nine-point movement over the course of two months. In addition to that, the poll indicated that more than 60-percent of North Carolina voters favor some right for same-sex couples, with some favoring marriage rights and a percentage favoring the utilization of civil unions and the like. Even though many still believe that same-sex marriage is wrong, the tide is turning, and one vote in 2012 should not be seen as a stamp of disapproval for same-sex marriage over the long-term. Rather, the changing tide in North Carolina indicates that the population is softening toward same-sex marriage rights.

Same-sex marriage is something that should be legalized in North Carolina, at least in part, because the rest of the country seems to be coming around on the issue. Nationally speaking, polls indicate that a majority of citizens across the country believe that same-sex couples should have marriage rights. The issue has been trending in this direction for at least a decade, picking up more popular support in various parts of the country. The federal government has taken competing positions on same-sex marriage depending upon where one looks in that government. President Barack Obama has come out in favor of same-sex marriage rights, consistently putting forward the “love is love” campaign, in which he argues that there is no distinction between the love of a heterosexual couple and the love of a same-sex couple. Congress, for its part, passed the Defense of Marriage Act many years ago. This act was designed to ensure that the federal government did not, for its purposes, recognize any same-sex marriage that had been conducted in any state. However, things have changed in congress, and this law has since been invalidated by the Supreme Court of the United States. As the Supreme Court was considering the law, many congresspeople from both the Republican and Democratic Parties filed “friend of the court” briefs in an effort to convince the Court to invalidate the Defense of Marriage Act. When looking at the federal courts, one must note that the Supreme Court recently declined to consider seven cases from states that were trying to overturn same-sex marriage. By refusing to look at these cases, the Court essentially left in place lower court rulings. Those lower court rulings had done away with same-sex marriage bans. This meant that the Supreme Court, through its refusal to hear the cases, had essentially made same-sex marriage legal in all seven states. This brings the number of legal states to 30, as a large majority of the citizens of the United States now live in a place where same-sex marriage is legalized. Along these same lines, the state of North Carolina takes the official position that same-sex marriage is not allowed according to the state’s constitution. The city of Charlotte has no official position on the matter.

There are many healthcare reasons why same-sex marriage should be legalized in North Carolina. Healthcare professionals note that at current, the restrictions on same-sex marriage create some practical barriers to successful care. Currently, if a person is in a same-sex relationship, the partner does not have the same rights as a husband or wife might. Even if the couple has been together for a decade, the partner might be allowed to enter the room under certain circumstances. Perhaps more important is the fact that, if a person happens to be critically injured, the same-sex partner will not be able to participate in the decision-making process on that person’s future. Normally speaking, a husband or wife would get to make a decision on care for a person if that person was not able to do it on his own. If same-sex marriage is not legal, then partners are denied this right. This can be a major problem in those emergency situations where individuals are unconscious, and it may lead to the most important person in their life not having the ability to make the final call. Imagine, for a moment, being ill and not having the most important person in one’s life in the room. This is the reality that is currently facing those people who are in same-sex relationships in places like North Carolina where same-sex marriage is not legal. On top of that, there are concerns about how the end of life will be handled. It should be the law that a same-sex partner has the rights to his partner’s possessions, and rights to make a decision on the end of life situation of his partner. In North Carolina, with same-sex marriage being banned, a same-sex partner of many years has roughly the same rights as a high school kid who is dating his high school sweetheart. That is to say that a same-sex partner, who might have otherwise been married to his husband or her wife, will have little rights in the case of the partner’s death unless same-sex marriage is made legal in the state.

Same-sex marriage is currently an important issue around the country, but it is especially so in Charlotte and in North Carolina. As a more progressive city, Charlotte is forced to deal with the realities of the political situation in North Carolina, where the state’s voters have invalidated same-sex marriage as a matter of state constitutional law. Same-sex marriage should be made legal if North Carolina wants to keep up with the rest of the country. The movement appears to be coming, as much of the country has already seen its same-sex marriage bans invalidated by the courts, and others still have simply legalized same-sex marriage with their own laws. Because of some of the fairness concerns for same-sex couples in dealing with issues of healthcare and dealing with end of life issues, it only makes sense to ensure that these people are protected just as opposite-sex couples might be in these difficult situations.

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