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."
The North Carolina Democratic Party released a statement saying that Tuesday's results were a "setback" but that Democrats in the state would continue to fight for "equal rights."
"Tonight's results are an unfortunate reminder that the fight for Civil Rights in our state is not yet over. Writing discrimination into our Constitution is wrong. The State Constitution exists to protect the rights of our citizens- not to take them away. Despite this setback, north Carolina Democrats will continue to fight for all of our citizens" the statement said.
Tony Perkins, President of the Family Research Council- a conservative Christian organization- released a statement applauding the vote.
"We applaud North Carolina voters for joining voters in 31 other states upholding the historic and natural definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman" the statement said. "At every opportunity, the American people have demonstrated a deep appreciation for the unique benefits that marriage between a man and a woman brings to families and society. They recognize that marriage is the only kind of union that results in natural procreation and keeps a mother and father together to raise the children produced by their union."
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.