Gay rights groups vow to fight back as North Carolina votes to bar same-sex marriages


Greensboro, North Carolina

Rocked by an overwhelming vote in favour of amending the state constitution to bar same-sex marriages, gay rights groups across North Carolina today vowed to fight back with demonstrations in several cities in the coming days.

The uncompromising measure, called Amendment 1, was approved by North Carolina voters on yesterday by a 61 to 39 per cent margin with all counties reporting. President Barack Obama called the outcome “disappointing”.

The vote represents a major set-back for the gay rights movement nationally at a time when the issue of gay marriage is suddenly emerging as a major wedge issue in the 2012 presidential election. “We can’t change the results of this vote, but we can determine what comes next,” vowed Jasmine Beach-Ferrara of the Campaign for Southern Equality. “When kids across the state wake up, I want them to know that this story isn't over.”  Angered by the vote, gay couples were due to turn up at city offices in Wilson and Durham today to ask to be wed.  Same sex couples will stage similar ‘We do’ demonstrations in other cities next week.

All the so-called ‘Bible Belt’ states in the south-eastern US have now taken similar steps. Altogether 29 states in the US have passed constitutional amendments barring same-sex marriage.  The activism is spawned by many things, including religiosity – the amendment in North Carolina was supported by the 93-year-old Christian icon Billy Graham - and a conservative chorus that sees gay marriage as a symbol of what they consider to be the country’s ‘moral decline’.

It is also a form of backlash because, on a wider canvas, this is one step back for a gay rights movement that has otherwise taken several steps forward of late.  Marriage licences are now issued to same-sex couples in six states and in Washington, while laws are pending to make them available in two more.  They are not recognized nationally, but polling shows that a small majority of Americans are now accepting of homosexuals marrying, a big change over a few years ago.

A significant subplot is the twisting of the Obama administration. Last weekend, Vice President Joe Biden sparked a minor kerfuffle by proclaiming himself “entirely comfortable” with gay marriage and the Education Secretary, Arne Duncan, said the same the following day.  President Barack Obama, however, continues to hedge, motivated no doubt by the knowledge that several of those states pushing back against gay marriage, including North Carolina, will be battleground states in the 2012 presidential contest.

Backers of Amendment 1 celebrated the lopsided result with a reception in Raleigh, sharing slices of wedding cakes with plastic couples – heterosexual clearly – atop the icing. “We are not anti-gay; we are pro-marriage,” said Tami Fitzgerald, chairwoman of Vote for Marriage NC. Invoking the Bible, she added: “The point - the whole point – is simply that you don't rewrite the nature of God's design for marriage based on the demands of a group of adults.”

The amendment states: “Marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this state.” Thus civil union status for gays is also ruled out.  Legal scholars warned that beyond that the amendment could impact on straight couples living together in domestic partnerships, possibly affecting everything from hospital visitation rights to protection in cases of domestic abuse.

A big next step for gay rights organisers will be inserting language to uphold same-sex marriage in the Democratic platform at the party convention in early September and, better still, winkling words of support out of Mr Obama before then.  It is hardly helpful, therefore, that the convention will be in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Two christmas trees ,Moonbeam (2L), Moonchester (2R) and Santa Claus outside the Etihad Stadium
footballAll the action from today's games
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Life and Style
food + drink
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas