Senator James Forrester was recently maligned, in large part because he was the driving force behind legislation to put a marriage referendum on the North Carolina ballot in May. The charge is that he “falsified his medical credentials;” the reality, he neglected and failed to update his public resume. Forrester’s resume listed him as a Fellow of the American College of Preventive Medicine, an award given by the group. When I think about awards, I don’t usually think about a maintenance package in the form of required annual dues. But the ACPM has decided its fellowships come with a price tag: annual dues in perpetuity. As such, when Forrester dropped his annual membership years after he launched his political career, he became a former fellow and he should have updated his resume.
Now, to the more pertinent issue: the law which has precipitated so much animosity towards Sen. Forrester. Forrester’s “Defense of Marriage Act,” allows the people to vote on whether or not to amend the North Carolina constitution. If the referendum passes, then the constitution will be amended by adding Section 6 which will read, “Marriage between a man and a woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this State.” Opponents of the bill are calling this a “hate-amendment” which “bans gay marriage.” But the kryptonite to their argument lies in a cursory examination of current North Carolina law. Under the North Carolina General Statutes, marriage is already defined as a union between one man and one woman. The law further notes that unions between homosexuals are not recognized within the state:
NCGS § 51 – 1.
A valid and sufficient marriage is created by the consent of a male and female person who may lawfully marry, presently to take each other as husband and wife, freely, seriously and plainly expressed by each in the presence of the other, either:
(1) a. In the presence of an ordained minister of any religious denomination, a minister authorized by a church, or a magistrate; and
b. With the consequent declaration by the minister or magistrate that the persons are husband and wife; or
(2) In accordance with any mode of solemnization recognized by any religious denomination, or federally or State recognized Indian Nation or Tribe.
Marriages solemnized before March 9, 1909, by ministers of the gospel licensed, but not ordained, are validated from their consummation.
NCGS § 51?1.2.
Marriages, whether created by common law, contracted, or performed outside of North Carolina, between individuals of the same gender are not valid in North Carolina. (1995 (Reg. Sess., 1996), c. 588, s. 1.)
Whether or not Forrester’s referendum passes, the status of homosexual unions will be exactly the same under North Carolina law. Either the unions will be prohibited by state law, or by the state constitution. The only thing accomplished by derailing this bill is denying the citizens of North Carolina an opportunity to weigh in on the issue with their votes. Perhaps someone should ask the bill’s opponents why they oppose the democratic process.
One final note: if the referendum passes, North Carolina would become the thirtieth state to pass a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman.