It took less than 48 hours for the N.C. General Assembly to pass an amendment saying marriage is only between a man and a woman. Once that decision was made, the constituents of North Carolina had 5,736 hours to decide what the definition of marriage is before they enter the polls for the May 2012 primary ballots and vote on writing the Defense of Marriage amendment into the state constitution.
When voters are deciding whether to approve or reject the amendment, they will only be able to read the first sentence of the amendment on the ballot. The first sentence states: "Marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this state."
Under this law, couples in domestic partnerships, homosexual or heterosexual, could lose hospital and prison visitation rights, domestic violence protections, child custody rights and health insurance and tax benefits.
The amendment seems redundant since there is already a law in the books banning same-sex marriage and stating that same-sex marriages performed in other states won't be recognized in North Carolina. The amendment also seems contradictory to previous statements from the General Assembly about how they would lead the state.
In January, when the Republican Party became the majority party in the N.C. General Assembly and the new lawmakers elected Sen. Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, as Senate president pro tempore, he said: "We will lead North Carolina on a path of smaller, smarter, more efficient government."
This amendment seems a clear example of big government. How can any constitution change that regulates personal behavior and hinders equal protection under the law fall under small government?
Four years ago, the N.C. Legislature approved a resolution that apologized for slavery. Senate Joint Resolution 1557 states: "The general assembly calls on all North Carolinians to recommit their state, their communities and themselves to the proclamation of their nation's Declaration of Independence and their State Constitution that 'all persons are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights.'"
If this marriage amendment becomes part of the constitution, will another apology follow saying basically the same thing years down the road? Between now and May, citizens will have to decide what certain inalienable rights are actually endowed to all persons.
The referendum was moved from the November 2012 election to the primaries in order to gain support from some House Democrats. Senator E.S. Newton, R-Nash, said the amendment was not a political ploy to mobilize conservative voters. But it seems like it could be a move to increase the percentage of conservative voters.
The Democratic voter turnout is expected to be low in the primaries because President Barack Obama and Gov. Bev Perdue will both be running for re-election without serious Democratic contenders. With the Republican nomination up in the air, the Republican voter turnout is expected to be high.
Typically, primary elections have a smaller voter turnout than the general election in November, and historically fewer young voters show up for the primaries. The youth has often helped the voice of minorities to be heard. It is the strength, intelligence and heart of the youth that have helped the LGBTQ community gain rights in the past.
Whether you agree with the Defense of Marriage amendment is honestly a moot point. The most important thing is that you get out there to vote in May. Don't just stand for something and speak up for something, but actually do something to help the community you live in reflect what you think is fair. This is a chance for Elon students to do something more than wear a sticker. A "not in my state" sticker really won't make a difference, but going to the polls might actually change lives of people across the state.