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Amendment One … in the Limelight

Do you know what Amendment One is all about?  Let’s start with what North Carolina Session Law 2011-409 says: “AN ACT TO AMEND THE CONSTITUTION TO PROVIDE THAT MARRIAGE BETWEEN ONE MAN AND ONE WOMAN IS THE ONLY DOMESTIC LEGAL UNION THAT SHALL BE VALID OR RECOGNIZED IN THIS STATE.”

Wait a second, I thought a Session Law is already an effective law passed by the General Assembly. Well this law is a bit different.  It is what is called a “legislatively-referred constitutional amendment.”  According to Ballotpedia, this means that this bill is “a proposed constitutional amendment that appears on a state’s ballot as a ballot measure because the state legislative in that state voted to put it before the voters.”  State constitutions can only be amended through a specific procedure.  With a legislatively-referred constitutional amendment the citizens of a state are allowed a limited form of direct democracy compared to the initiated constitutional amendment. Converse to the  legislatively-referred constitutional amendment, with an initiated constitutional amendment, voters can initiate the amendment and approve it.  However, under the the legislatively-referred amendment, voters may merely approve or reject amendments presented by their state’s legislature.

There are various methods for amending state constitutions, from the number of legislative sessions that the amendment must pass to the size of the vote within the legislative body. One of the major differences among states in presenting a legislative-referred constitional amendment to the voters is how many different sessions of the state legislature must vote on the amendment.  For North Carolina, Section 4 of Article 13 of the North Carolina Constitution, states the following:

Sec. 4. Revision or amendment by legislative initiation.

A proposal of a new or revised Constitution or an amendment or amendments to this Constitution may be initiated by the General Assembly, but only if three-fifths of all the members of each house shall adopt an act submitting the proposal to the qualified voters of the State for their ratification or rejection. The proposal shall be submitted at the time and in the manner prescribed by the General Assembly. If a majority of the votes cast thereon are in favor of the proposed new or revised Constitution or constitutional amendment or amendments, it or they shall become effective January first next after ratification by the voters unless a different effective date is prescribed in the act submitting the proposal or proposals to the qualified voters.

Under Section 1 of this Session Law a new section (Section 6) will be added under Article 14 of the North Carolina Constitution providing the following: “Marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this state.  This section does not prohibit a private party from entering into contracts with another private party; nor does this section prohibit courts from adjudicating the rights of private parties pursuant to such contracts.”

Under this session law, the above amendment must be submitted to registered voters of North Carolina on the date of the first primary in 2012 (May 8, 2012), and “if a majority of votes cast on the question are in favor of the amendment set out [above], the State Board of Elections shall certify the amendment to the Secretary of the State, [where] the Secretary of State shall enroll the amendment so certified among the the permanent records of the office.”  Once certified the above amendment will become effective, and when it is effective, it becomes law.

No matter your views on the proposed amendment to the North Carolina Constitution, the fate of this amendment is in your hands.  To find out whether or not you are registered and eligible to vote, visit “My Election Information” at the North Carolina State Board of Elections.  They also provide information about campaign finance, candidates, absentee voting, as well as how to register to vote online.

P.S. The last day to register  in order to be eligible to vote in the primary is coming up quick — It is this Friday, April 13th!

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