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Protestors in North Carolina Rally for Gay Marriage Ban

March 04, 2009 03:32 PM
by Rachel Balik
A state legislature bill to put a gay marriage ban on the ballot drew 3,000 supporters to a rally in North Carolina.

Crowd of 3,000 Rallies in Front of NC Legislature

A crowd composed primarily of Baptists from churches all over the state of North Carolina gathered outside the state Legislature earlier this week, demanding the opportunity to vote for a ban against gay marriage. The News & Observer reported that Christian pundits spoke at the rally to explain the ways that society would be compromised if gay marriage were allowed. A group based in Winston-Salem, Return America, organized the rally.

Since Democrats continue to have a majority in the state Legislature, the AP predicts that the protesters won’t be successful with their campaign. The bill would have to pass four committees before it is even considered on the floor.

North Carolina law already defines marriage as being between a man and a woman; the state simply lacks a specific ban on same-sex unions. But 30 other states have felt that such a ban was necessary. As was the case in California, the state Supreme Court could rule the current law unconstitutional; supporters of the ban want to prevent such an eventuality with a constitutional amendment that directly bans gay marriage.

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Background: Republican Leaders Introduce “Defense of Marriage” in NC

In mid-February 2009, Rowan County commissioners voted unanimously to ask the North Carolina State Legislature to add a gay marriage referendum to next November’s ballot. The commissioners listened to arguments before voting, and The Charlotte Observer reported that approximately 150 people attended the debate. Commissioners said that they did not wish to make a “morality statement on homosexuality” but that they did think people had a right to vote on the matter. 

A few days later, Republican lawmakers statewide officially began a campaign for the referendum. The director of the gay rights advocacy group Equality North Carolina told a local TV station that the impact of the proposed constitutional amendment would go beyond simply defining marriage as a heterosexual union; it would serve to permanently prohibit any recognition of same-sex domestic partnerships and civil unions in North Carolina. Proponents of the bill express concern that North Carolina will be sued by a same-sex couple and forced to recognize gay marriage. In that case, the current marriage laws could only be protected by a constitutional ban.

Key Players: Return America and Equality North Carolina

The “Stand Up for Traditional Marriage” March rally was organized by a Christian group called Return America. The group is focused on ridding the world of sin before the arrival of “the end of days,” which the group believes has been impending since the birth of Christ.

Advocates from Equality North Carolina monitored the rally, and reports on its official Web site that the current rally showed a decline in numbers from a 2007 rally held by Return America. Equality NC met with state House leaders and encouraged them not to support the bill.

Related Topics: Prop 8 and National Reactions

The recent controversy surrounding Proposition 8 has intensified the gay marriage debate in many states. Gay rights activists in Minnesota, California and Arizona are refocusing their efforts to legalize gay marriage. In Minnesota, the group OutFront has acknowledged that while legalizing gay marriage may take many years, a long-term educational initiative addressing equality may ultimately benefit the cause.

Meanwhile, California’s ban on gay marriage is being challenged with a hearing in the state Supreme Court, scheduled to occur two days after the North Carolina rally. Although many feel it would be undemocratic for the court to reverse the ban, others have argued that the referendum shouldn’t have been allowed on the ballot at all because the courts had already ruled that gay marriage was permissible.

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