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Advocates say serious problems remain in new version of anti-LGBT amendment

By Matt Comer
Sunday, September 11, 2011
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RALEIGH, N.C. — Negative consequences of a far-reaching anti-LGBT state constitutional amendment remain very real possibilities, statewide equality advocates warned Saturday.

The comments from Equality North Carolina and two professors from the University of North Carolina School of Law follow secretive attempts Friday by Senate leaders to introduce a new version of the amendment through committee on Monday when state lawmakers return to Raleigh for a special session devoted to constitutional amendments. A committee substitute is being planned for the amendment though it has not yet been officially released by Senate leaders, as reported Friday by WRAL’s Laura Leslie.

Equality North Carolina Interim Executive Director Alex Miller said his group finds leaders’ newest efforts unnerving.

“The fact that legislators would go to such unbelievable lengths to hide their efforts and force this discriminatory legislation is truly appalling,” Miller said in a release. “All along backers of the constitutional same-sex marriage ban like Rep. Stam and Rep. Folwell have said this is about putting things in the hands of the public; it’s now confirmed that they are perfectly willing to deceive the public in order to pass this divisive and unpopular legislation.”

Two law professors also spoke out, saying several negative consequences of the amendment’s vague and broad language still remain. UNC Law Professor Maxine Eichner said the newest amendment version will still invalidate domestic partner benefits offered to public employees and still has the potential to impact private domestic partnerships. The language also still has the potential to interfere with child custody and visitation orders and invalidate end-of-life arrangements like wills, trusts and medical powers of attorney. The amendment would still

“The addition of a second sentence in the revised version eliminates a few of the negative consequences that could result from the first sentence’s language,” Eichner said in a release. “However, the bulk of the problems remain. In seeking to bar recognition or validation of ‘domestic legal unions,’ the proposed Senate bill would still introduce into the Constitution a phrase that has never been used in any prior law in North Carolina, never been interpreted by its courts, and never been interpreted by courts in any other state. The bill’s language is still so vague and untested, and its scope so unclear and potentially far reaching, that it could take courts years of litigation to untangle its meaning.”

A second UNC Law professor, Holning Lau, echoed Eichner’s remarks.

“The revised amendment would still impair the ability of North Carolina to attract and retain a competitive workforce,” he said. “Research suggests that educated and creative professionals prefer to work and live in places that embrace diversity and are inclusive of gays and lesbians. The amendment risks alienating these professionals. Our state economy relies heavily — more so than many other state economies — on knowledge-based industries that require an educated and creative workforce to flourish.”

The secretive move by Senate leaders follows increased awareness around the potential harms of the anti-LGBT amendment. On Friday, Facebook co-founder and Hickory, N.C.-native Chris Hughes, who is gay, spoke out against he amendment. He was joined by the president of the North Carolina chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

Miller said his group will continue to raise awareness and remind citizens and legislators of the seriousness of the proposed constitutional ban.

“We want to make it perfectly clear that nothing’s changed,” Miller said. “The devastating harms of this amendment are still there, the majority of North Carolina’s still don’t support this or any other amendment, and our plans remain firm to bring together thousands of pro-equality North Carolina voices to tell these lawmakers: ‘no more lies, no more subterfuge, not in my state.’”

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