Marriage amendment backers, foes differ on impact

May 1, 2012 3:04:38 PM PDT
In the wake of a new television ad and the recent push by opponents of the marriage amendment to make the case that it could jeopardize domestic violence laws in the state, a handful of conservative district attorneys pushed back this morning.

"There's a parade of horribles being brought out in this amendment and it's done for one purpose and that is to scare the voters," said Rockingham County District Attorney Phil Berger Jr.

The group argued the state's domestic violence laws wouldn't be affected at all by the marriage amendment. They Pointed out they were written to include people who live together, whether gay or straight.

"They put in a section that covers households and ever since then, Judge Wright and other judges have prosecuted cases of domestic couples," said Forsyth County District Attorney Tom Keith.

But while the state's domestic violence laws do cover current or former household members and the marriage amendment doesn't specifically change the domestic violence laws, the wording of the amendment is critical.  

It states, "Marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this state."  

Critics are concerned that, if marriage is the only union recognized by the state, it won't change domestic violence laws -- it will make most of them irrelevant.

"An argument can be made that these laws can now only be enforced in marital situations," said Rep. Deborah Ross, (D) Raleigh.

Ross said it's far from clear how a judge might rule on that. However, she's convinced the amendment would, as has happened in other states, end up in court.

"It might not change what these few prosecutors might do, but it's certainly going to change what the person accused of domestic violence is going to try to do because they will be able to invoke this amendment to challenge the domestic violence laws," said Ross. "And it will be tied up in the courts. There's no question."

Family law professors from across the state issued astatement Tuesday about the marriage amendment. They agree that domestic violence laws could be in jeopardy and that the amendment "threatens harms to a broad range of North Carolina families."

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