North Carolina Governor Bev Perdue announced Friday that she would oppose a proposed state constitutional amendment that would ban marriage, civil unions and domestic partnerships for same-sex couples in the state. Perdue, who voted in favor of North Carolina’s 1996 Defense of Marriage Amendment — which defined marriage as a union between one man and one woman— attributed her decision to the more pressing issue of unemployment.
“My top priority is creating jobs,” Perdue said in a press release. “Too many people are out of work and I’ve heard from several business leaders who’ve told me that the proposed constitutional amendment will harm our state’s business climate and make it harder to grow jobs here.”
Perdue stated that while she still believes — as she did in 1996 — that marriage is between one man and one woman, she cannot “in good conscience look an unemployed man or woman in the eye and tell them that this amendment is more important than finding them a job.”
She added that a number of legal experts have informed her that the amendment could eliminate legal protections for all unmarried couples in North Carolina, regardless of their sexual orientation.
Indeed, LGBT advocacy group Equality North Carolina, has highlighted on its website some dangers of the proposed amendment, which include its broad application to all of the state’s unmarried couples. According to legal experts the organization consulted, the amendment’s vague language could be used to invalidate domestic violence protections for people in non-married relationships, interfere with existing child custody and visitation rights and nullify trusts, wills and end-of-life directives, among other things.
Equality North Carolina’s interim executive director Alex Miller spoke out against the amendment in a statement that supported Perdue’s opposition to the proposed change.
“Governor Perdue's statement makes clear that while there are issues on which we do not agree, we do agree that this amendment, and this debate, is not about legalizing same-sex marriage, but is and should be about what this amendment would actually do: eliminate legal recognition and protections for all unmarried couples, regardless of their sexual orientation.” Miller said. “It represents an especially insidious message for LGBT North Carolinians, as the sponsors of this amendment have made clear their intent is and always has been to permanently enshrine in our state's founding document the idea that a minority of our citizens do not deserve equal rights, treatment or protection.”
Miller added, "The debate over this amendment will be contentious and, judging by the tactics used by pro-amendment groups in other states, incredibly nasty and divisive, all the while sending a strong message to diverse business interests and impressionable LGBT youth, that North Carolina 'doesn't want you here.' This is precisely why leaders from all sides of the political spectrum--from Congresswoman Ellmers to Governor Perdue to Rev. William Barber--are speaking out, and voting against, the anti-LGBT amendment."
But other LGBT media outlets were not so welcoming of Perdue’s views on the amendment.
A post by popular LGBT blogger (and North Carolinian) Pam Spaulding criticized the Governor’s decision to reaffirm her anti-LGBT beliefs in the statement about the amendment.
“Perdue took the politically safe route of emphasizing the waste of time and money that the Republicans who pushed this amendment initiative through as unemployment plagues our state, but it is a slap in the face to use the statement to reiterate that every taxpaying LGBT citizen in this state is a second-class citizen and she likes it that way,” Spaulding wrote. “She didn’t have to do it, but she did. And that matters.”
GLAAD encourages media outlets to explore the impact of this proposed legislation on the thousands of couples it would affect in North Carolina. The amendment as it stands is poised to threaten the ability of people in loving relationships to provide for and protect their partners, and so it is vital that these individual stories be told.