Amendment 1 is North Carolina’s attempt to stop any and all unmarried residents from having any legal rights whatsoever. This despite the fact that unmarried Americans are the majority of the population.
Amendment 1 defines
marriage between one man and one woman [as] the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this State.
It would deny any registered domestic partnerships or civil unions legal status.
Billy Graham even got up off his deathbed to urge Evangelical Christians to vote for Amendment 1. Running full page ads in 14 of the state’s paper, Graham urged North Carolinans to vote for Amendment 1 saying:
At 93, I never thought we would have to debate the definition of marriage. The Bible is clear — God’s definition of marriage is between a man and a woman. I want to urge my fellow North Carolinians to vote for the marriage amendment on Tuesday, May 8. God bless you as you vote.
Meanwhile Bill Clinton did robocalls to North Carolina residents urging them to vote against Amendment 1. Alas, Clinton’s robocalls did nothing to diminish the Amendment’s popularity, which is predicted to win by a large margin.
Of course, the amendment is not just stupid, but also completely logical, at least within the logics of racial and sexual hygiene that haunts contemporary marriage debates. According to a report in the Huffington Post, the wife of the state senator who wrote the bill, Jodie Brunstetter, said
The reason my husband wrote Amendment 1 was because the Caucasian race is diminishing and we need to uh, reproduce.
But eugenics and a highly racialized and classed order have always been the reason that marriage was protected and unmarried people were not considered full citizens in this country. Those who do not confine their sexual practices to the conjugal bed are considered in need of legal regulation and even medical and psychiatric intervention. From anti-sodomy laws to anti-prostitution laws, moral crusaders wanted to protect the “Caucasian” race from the pollution of sex outside of marriage. The stick was imprisonment, institutionalization, and even sterilization as the “native stock” tried to protect its kind through the science of eugenics.
But today openly eugenicist claims like Mrs. Brunstetter’s leave a bitter taste in our mouths. We far prefer the carrot. Pop psychology and mass media make heroes of the married and villains of “commitmentphobes.” The U.S. government rewards the marrieds, already wealthier and whiter than the rest of the population, with 2000-plus federal rights and privileges. And let’s not forget all the presents, cake, and honeymoons that gild the lily of married Americans special status.
Alas, what is perhaps most depressing about Amendment One is not the racial and class logics behind it, but that we have once again missed an opportunity to talk about protecting all families and all Americans, regardless of marital status or sexual orientation. Instead of arguing that long-term same-sex couples ought to be granted the privileges of marriage, we ought to actually discuss decoupling civil rights from marital status. Instead of protecting the “off white” gay and lesbian couples as long as they’re “reproducing the race” or at least confining their libido to marriage, it’s time to create a public debate about why any of our rights and privileges are attached to our relationship status.
North Carolina’s Amendment 1 might be a whole lot of stupid, but so is fighting for the rights of the few over the rights of the many.