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A proposed amendment to North Carolina's constitution which would make marriage between a man and woman the only legal union recognized by the state has passed a statewide vote, the Associated Press reports.
The referendum- North Carolina Amendment One- goes a step beyond outlawing same-sex marriage, which was already illegal in the state. The law decrees that "marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this State"- meaning that civil unions and potentially other types of domestic partnerships will no longer be legally recognized.
With a little over 43 percent of precincts reporting, support for the amendment was strong- with about 61 percent of North Carolina voters casting their ballots in favor of the amendment, and roughly 39 percent voting against it.
There is some uncertainty among legal scholars in the state as to the extent of the law, and what types of partnerships might be affected, as the terminology in the amendment- domestic legal union- has not appeared in North Carolina statutes previously.
"The language 'domestic legal union' is not used in North Carolina statutes or in North Carolina case law," said Jean Cary, professor of law at Campbell University in Raleigh, N.C., "so it is totally undefined."
North Carolina had previously been the only Southern state that did not have a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. Some 29 states already have statutes or constitutional amendments outlawing same-sex marriage. Additionally, in Hawaii, the state legislature has the power to define marriage, though the state does not currently explicitly ban same-sex marriage. North Carolina will now become the 30th state with such a law. Same sex marriage is currently legal in six states, plus Washington, D.C.
The passage of Amendment One is not necessarily a harbinger of bad things to come for Obama and the Democrats in the fall. This type of legislation has not always fallen along red and blue state lines. Constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage have passed in several blue states including Oregon, Maine and California.