The Bollinger Law Firm, P.C.

North Carolina's "Amendment One" will gut our Civil Domestic Violence protections

Amendment ONE is up for vote on May 8.  Proponents claim that it will ban forever gay marriage in our state.  However, it has a far more reaching impact.

The Amendment states that the only "domestic union" that will be "valid or recognized" in North Carolina will be a marriage between one man and one woman.   But our civil domestic violence law, Chapter 50B, specifically lists the domestic unions that are protected by that law.  Chapter 50B lists married couples, but also couples in a dating relationship, couples who live together, people (including kids) who live in the same household together, couples who have a child together, and ex-spouses.  This law recognizes and protects all of those domestic relationships and makes it possible for a person in one of those relationships who is abused to go to civil District Court and get a "Domestic Violence Restraining Order."   In most counties a victim does not even need a lawyer to get the Order.  And if the victim has been injured, then the District Court judge can order the abusive boyfriend, husband, ex-husband, or member of the household, to surrender his guns, his ammo, and his gum permits.  

Now, what happens to this excellent civil domestic violence law when Amendment ONE gets passed by the voters?  Well, all those domestic relationships that are protected in Chapter 50B--ex-wives, girlfriends, members of the household--all of those relationships will suddenly no longer be "recognized or valid" in the eyes of NC law.   Remember, the Amendment says that the only domestic relationship that will be "recognized or valid" is a marriage between a man and a woman.  So, the domestic relationship between girlfriend and boyfriend, between people who are engaged to be married, and between divorced spouses or people who had a child together--those relationships are no longer going to be "recognized or valid" in NC law!  

You see, a Constitutional Amendment trumps all other laws.  The General Assembly cannot override an amendment, and judges cannot override it either.  When this amendment passes, that civil domestic violence law will become meaningless for most domestic violence victims, because the domestic relationship in which the violence occurred will no longer be "recognized or valid" in our law.  If the law does not recognize something or deem it valid, then the law cannot protect it.  For that simple reason, Amendment One will do away with the civil protections for many victims of domestic violence in North Carolina.  the only domestic relationship still covered by that law will be that of a victim who is currently married to the abuser.  

Regardless of how you may feel about gay marriage, this unwanted side effect of the Amendment is a good reason to vote AGAINST Amendment One on May 8. 

But the folks trying to sell this Amendment are not being honest about this problem--in an article recently about it in the Raleigh News and Observer, Paul "Skip" Stam (the Republican legislator from Apex who is pushing it) and Tami Fitzgerald, director of "Vote for Marriage North Carolina" both denied that the Amendment would negate our domestic violence laws.  Stam knows better, and he pulled a fast one by claiming that it would not harm domestic violence "criminal" laws.  That is correct so far as it goes--domestic violence usually is a criminal act.  But he did not address the real issue, which is the adverse effect the Amendment will have on our civil domestic violence laws, notably Chapter 50B.  That is not a criminal law.  But depriving the victims of domestic violence the ability to go to civil court and get protection from the abuser, now that ought to be criminal!    Please vote AGAINST AMENDMENT ONE on May 8!  For a more detailed analysis of this problem see my article here:   http://www.avvo.com/legal-guides/ugc/north-carolinas-amendment-one

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