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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!

Beyond the Law: Pro Bono Is More Than Legal Services

November 18, 2011 Leave a comment

One might  think that with all the studying and work that there is to do at the Wake Forest School of Law, that people would not have time for anything else.  This is certainly not the case.  Not only do people at WFU Law make the time to do other things, they use this time to help others.  With the Thanksgiving season coming up fast, there are many examples of this  pro bono spirit.

Three of our student organizations, SBABLSA, and VALOR have joined together to spearhead the law school’s annual food drive.  Not only do participants get to enjoy “immunity” from being called on in class, they aid their class in competing for free coffee and donuts and, win or lose, all participants assist in providing food for the Winston-Salem  Samaritan Inn Soup Kitchen.  If you have forgotten to bring your canned goods to school, and you have to face a tough class, check the Professional Center Library’s Twitter account.   It MIGHT be a day that the Library is providing cans of food to students who know the secret password.

VALOR  also conducted a veteran’s awareness week that culminated on Saturday the 12th,  in the First Annual Veteran’s Day 5K run. Those who would like to know more take a look at http://valor.law.wfu.edu/category/event/.   It was a brisk but beautiful day, in addition to an enthusiastic group of students, faculty and staff, and even members of the public, turned out to support the event.

Prof. Irwin-Smiler is congratulated after completing the 5K.

Organizers

Not only do we have wonderful students, our staff has been doing a lot for those in need.  Our own Officer “D” and his wife are co-founders of Kids for Cancer, a foundation that raises money to support families whose children are battling cancer.  Motivated by their son Vinnie,who is fighting his own battle against cancer, they understand the many needs families might have.  The foundation tries to provide what is most needed, be it gas cards or help with medical bills to smaller shows of support in the form of  meals or toys.  The foundation also provides emotional support and helps parent to keep working and hoping for a cure.  Right now the Foundation is competing in the Pepsi Refresh Project, to win $50,000 for a down payment on a “Safe Haven Beach Home” for the use of the cancer patients and their families.  In order to win, the Foundation’s project must remain in the top 10 of the list of $50,000 projects, everyday during the month of November.  They were fluctuating between #9 and #11, and have recently risen to around #4.  You can help keep the votes high, particularly during that busy Thanksgiving weekend, simply by texting or with a couple of mouse clicks.

Those who frequent the 3rd floor lounge may have noticed a box for book donations.  One of our recent graduates, Shane Werley,  is now owner of  a used-book store, and has offered to sell  the books that we provide and donate 100% of the profits to the Kids of Childhood Cancer Foundation.  Ed Raliski is coordinating this effort, and has said to expect to see more of these boxes appear after Thanksgiving.  As you clean out your offices, desks, lockers, and book-bags, consider making a donation to a good cause while giving yourself the gift of having that much less to pack up at the end of the year.