The House Rule Committee has passed H61 – a bill authorizing a referendum on a constitutional amendment restricting marriage. It now goes to the North Carolina House, which is expected to pass it.
Proponents did two key things to the bill: The first is a provision that proponents say eliminates the argument that it would outlaw domestic partnerships or hamper businesses that recognize partnerships from doing so. The second shifts the date of the referendum to the “first primary,” which proponents say eliminates the argument tha tit is not political.
To the first point: As Rep. Joe Hackney sought to point out, the wording in the new section is so undefined that it could, and likely will, have consequences outside the bill’s intent. Rep. Paul Stam may say the legislature has debated the idea over and over, but it has not debated this bill, in this circumstance and in this era. To just plunge ahead and write something into the constitution that has not been tested or debated is inviting trouble.
To the second point: We don’t know when the first primary of next year will be. As it did in 2002, redistricting could have a big effect on when primaries for some of the slate would happen. The legislature, of course, can set the date to anytime it wants. It could also shift around pretty much any primary race or group of races. Regardless of when the amendment goes to the voters, the political machine that will push for its passage will get a boost in fundraising, organization and energy. That extra boost in getting social conservatives energized could pay off if the GOP nominates someone who doesn’t light up the evangelical voters.
The switch in timing also has an effect the other way. Opposition to the bill would probably have an effect in helping turnout among the younger voters who helped put Obama over the top here in 2008. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were some poll numbers showing that and the switch was made not to eliminate politics but because of it. Given that the first primary will be much more of a Republican affair statewide, a referendum would stand an even greater chance of passage than it would in the general election.
Text of the bill (date switch isn’t in this one):
A BILL TO BE ENTITLED AN ACT TO AMEND THE CONSTITUTION TO PROVIDE MARRIAGE BETWEEN ONE MAN AND ONE WOMAN IS THE ONLY DOMESTIC LEGAL UNION THAT SHALL
BE VALID OR RECOGNIZED IN THIS STATE.
The General Assembly of North Carolina enacts:
SECTION 1. Article 14 of the North Carolina Constitution is amended by adding the following new section:
“Sec. 6. Marriage. Marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this State. This section does not prohibit a private party from entering into contracts with another private party; nor does this section prohibit courts from adjudicating the rights of private parties pursuant to such contracts.”
SECTION 2. The amendment set out in Section 1 of this act shall be submitted to the qualified voters of the State at a statewide election to be held on November 6, 2012, which election shall be conducted under the laws then governing elections in the State. Ballots, voting systems, or both may be used in accordance with Chapter 163 of the General Statutes. The question to be used in the voting systems and ballots shall be:
“[ ] FOR [ ] AGAINST Constitutional amendment to provide that marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this State.”
SECTION 3. If a majority of votes cast on the question are in favor of the amendment set out in Section 1 of this act, the State Board of Elections shall certify the amendment to the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State shall enroll the amendment so certified among the permanent records of that office. The amendment is effective upon
SECTION 4. This act is effective when it becomes law.