The City of Durham became the third North Carolina city to support same-sex marriage, when its City Council unanimously passed a resolution this week asking the General Assembly to allow gays and lesbians to marry. Chapel Hill and Carborro passed similar resolutions last Spring. The resolution was brought to the Durham City Council by gay rights activist Joshua Lee Weaver, who says he wants to introduce similar measures in Asheville, Winston-Salem, and Greensboro. He plans to push the measure in bigger cities in North Carolina with the goal of changing minds one city at a time.
A majority of North Carolina voters oppose same-sex marriage. A statewide poll released in March of this year found that 73 percent of registered voters in North Carolina support such an amendment. That poll was commissioned by the North Carolina Family Policy Council and conducted by the Virginia-based Advantage Incorporated. A poll conducted in February by the John W. Pope Civitas Institute, found an even higher percentage–76 percent–of voters in the state support a Marriage Protection Amendment.
For six years, legislation has been introduced in the General Assembly to allow voters to vote on a Marriage Protection Amendment, but legislative leaders have refused to allow even a hearing on the bill. Bills were introduced in the Senate and the House this year—Senate Bill 272-Defense of Marriage, and HB 361— Defense of Marriage, but neither bill ever received a hearing in committee.
Proponents of the bills include the Christian Action League and NC4Marriage, a bipartisan coalition of voters, churches, ministry and denominational leaders, policy organizations, and political leaders formed in 2009 for the purpose of working together to convince legislators to pass a Marriage Protection Amendment. They have argued that it will protect marriage and protect children from being taught in schools that homosexuality is normal and that a same-sex union is the moral and legal equivalent to marriage.
While only 3 cities in North Carolina have passed resolutions in favor of same-sex marriage, County Commissioners in at least 15 counties and one town have passed resolutions in favor of a Marriage Protection Amendment that would prohibit same-sex marriage.
Same-sex marriage is legal in Connecticut, Iowa and Massachusetts. Beginning in September, it will also be legal in Vermont and Maine. Conversely, thirty states have passed Marriage Protection Amendments which define marriage as only between a man and a woman, thus outlawing same-sex marriage. Although North Carolina’s statutes prohibit marriage between persons of the same gender, it remains the only southern state without such a provision in its State Constitution, where a judge cannot overturn it.