Resources

History of State Constitutional Marriage Bans

How North Carolina’s Amendment 1 Fits in the Larger Picture

On Tuesday, May 8, the people of North Carolina will vote on an amendment to the state constitution that would effectively ban the state from recognizing any relationship other than a marriage between a man and a woman.  And while many other states already have such bans in place, North Carolina is the only state in the South to have staved off such a ban – for now.  The ban will appear on the ballot as Amendment 1 and has overreaching consequences, well beyond prohibiting marriage equality.  If passed, Amendment 1 would ban civil unions and strip domestic partnership benefits – including for opposite-sex couples, eliminate health care, prescription drug coverage and other benefits for public employees and children receiving domestic partner benefits, and even threaten protections for all unmarried couples in North Carolina.

Presently there are thirty states that have passed constitutional bans to restrict marriage [1]

The range of votes by which these bans passed varies greatly, but Southern states have consistently passed bans by the largest margin.  Nationwide the average vote percentage for these bans is 67 percent to 33 percent.  However, in the South the average is considerably higher – 75 percent to 25 percent.  Conversely, the West has the smallest margin of passage of such bans – but even that is a significant 58 percent to 42 percent.  Of the ten states with the largest vote margin, Southern states make up nine, with Oklahoma being the tenth.  Mississippi’s ban passed in 2004 at 86 percent to 14 percent – the largest vote margin in the nation.  Yet four years later, California’s Proposition 8 only passed by 4 percent. 

Americans across the board favor equality and oppose discrimination.  In fact, 71 percent of Americans support allowing gay and lesbian couples to enter into legal agreements with each other that would give them many of the same rights as married couples.   Over the last few years, more and more Americans are opposing measures like Amendment 1 that discriminate against committed and loving gay and lesbian couples.  Since 2005 the average vote margin on state marriage bans has decreased by 16 percent. 

In the last year, three states have passed marriage equality laws – New York, Washington and Maryland.  And currently the states of California, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, Colorado, Maine and Wisconsin offer some, if not all statewide spousal rights to same-sex couples within the state.  Nationwide, a majority of Americans support marriage rights for gay and lesbian couples. 

The one time a similar amendment was defeated was in 2006 when the people of Arizona voted against an expansive amendment banning marriage for same-sex couples as well as civil unions.  A poll of voters after Election Day indicated that a majority of those who voted against the amendment did so because they believed it to be unfair and a violation of individual rights.  They also opposed to a provision denying benefits to domestic partners.  Polling in North Carolina shows that many who plan to vote against Amendment 1 plan to do so for the same reasons.  It also shows that a vast majority of North Carolinians who intend to vote in favor of the ban do not actually understand its impact.  Barely 40 percent knows that the amendment would ban both same-sex marriage and civil unions, in addition to all other forms of relationship recognition for any unmarried couple. 

HRC has played a major role in the campaign to defeat Amendment 1.  We were a founding member of Protect ALL North Carolina Families, the coalition of national, state and local organizations working to defeat the anti-marriage measure.   HRC is the leading national organization investing in the coalition, providing senior staff leadership and building a cutting-edge field program to turn out the student vote and pioneer a faith outreach and voter mobilization strategy, critical for LGBT equality work in the South and nationally. 

North Carolina falls in the middle of the Bible Belt and religious messaging plays a large role in the development of policy.  HRC provided the coalition with a Religion and Faith director who led the work gathering support from faith leaders across the state.  Under his direction the coalition gathered signatures from 400 religious leaders for an open letter opposing Amendment 1 and distributed hundreds of faith-based tool kits to congregations statewide.  Op-eds opposing Amendment 1 from a religious perspective ran in all twelve major daily newspapers in North Carolina during the month of April alone. 

Activating the youth vote has also been important to the fight against Amendment 1.  Polls show that a considerable majority of people under the age of thirty oppose the measure.  HRC provided the coalition with a director of campus outreach and under his leadership, students at nearly fifty North Carolina colleges and universities were activated in the campaign.  Thousands of students were registered to vote and dozens of early votes were organized.  

It is apparent that support for state sanctioned discrimination is fading in America.  Even in places like Nebraska and Utah, which both passed constitutional marriage bans early in the last decade, opinions are changing and people are now supporting equality for LGBT Americans.  Should Amendment 1 pass in North Carolina, it will be a great loss for our movement.  But the numbers show that opposition to such measures is growing – and fast.

 


[1] State Constitutional Marriage Bans

 

Year

State

 

Yes

No

1998

 Alaska

Ballot Measure 2

68%

32%

1998

 Hawaii

Constitutional Amendment 2

69%

31%

2000

 Nebraska

Initiative Measure 416

70%

30%

2002

 Nevada

Question 2

67%

33%

2004

 Arkansas

Constitutional Amendment 3

75%

25%

2004

 Georgia

Constitutional Amendment 1

76%

24%

2004

 Kentucky

Constitutional Amendment 1

75%

25%

2004

 Louisiana

Constitutional Amendment 1

78%

22%

2004

 Michigan

State Proposal - 04-2

59%

41%

2004

 Mississippi

Amendment 1

86%

14%

2004

 Missouri

Constitutional Amendment 2

71%

29%

2004

 Montana

Initiative 96

67%

33%

2004 

 N. Dakota

Constitutional Measure 1

73%

 27%

2004

 Ohio

State Issue 1

62%

38%

2004

 Oklahoma

State Question 711

76%

24%

2004

 Oregon

Measure 36

57%

43%

2004

 Utah

Constitutional Amendment 3

66%

34%

2005

 Kansas

Proposed amendment 1

70%

30%

2005

 Texas

Proposition 2

76%

24%

2006

 Alabama

Sanctity of Marriage Amendment

81%

19%

2006

 Arizona

Proposition 107

48%

52%

2006

 Colorado

Amendment 43

56%

44%

2006

 Idaho

Amendment 2

63%

37%

2006

 S. Carolina

Amendment 1

78%

22%

2006

 S. Dakota

Amendment C

52%

48%

2006 

 Tennessee

Amendment 1

81%

19%

2006

 Virginia

Marshall-Newman Amendment

57%

43%

2006

 Wisconsin

Referendum 1

59%

41%

2008

 Arizona

Proposition 102

56%

44%

2008

 California

Proposition 8

52%

48%

2008

 Florida

Amendment 2

62%

38%