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Marriage amendment vote puts national focus on North Carolina

Debate is intense on a measure strictly defining legal unions, and it could have implications for presidential balloting in a key swing state.

May 05, 2012|By David Zucchino, Los Angeles Times

The website for Vote For Marriage NC, which supports the amendment, says that, if traditional marriage is not protected, "we will have an inevitable increase in children born out of wedlock, an increase in fatherlessness, a resulting increase in female and child poverty."

Amid competing rhetoric, the North Carolina secretary of state's Constitutional Amendments Publication Commission says there is "debate among legal experts" over how the amendment would affect employment-related benefits, child custody and visitation and domestic violence laws.

"The courts will ultimately make those decisions," the commission said in a statement.

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A 1996 state law already defines marriage as between a man and a woman. But proponents say a constitutional amendment is necessary to prevent "activist judges or politicians" from overturning the law.

The amendment has been debated, among other places, in side-by-side booths outside a voting site near Pittsboro on Tuesday. McEntee said traditional marriage must be protected from political and judicial efforts to dilute it.

"Marriage is a sacrament. It's fundamental, and it needs protection," McEntee said.

A few feet away, opponents of the measure gathered under the shade of a tree in brilliant spring sunshine, urging voters to defeat the amendment.

"We have no business writing discrimination into the North Carolina constitution," said Karl Kachergis, a local resident and former chairman of the county Democratic Party.

Meanwhile, the Republican House speaker, Thom Tillis, who supports the amendment, acknowledged the state's increasingly liberal leanings. Addressing students at NC State University in March, he said their generation would one day overturn the amendment.

"If it passes, I think it will be repealed within 20 years," Tillis said.

david.zucchino@latimes.com

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