Current Events and the Constitution: North Carolina Amendment One

On Tuesday, May 8, 2012, the people of North Carolina passed an amendment to their state constitution, stating: “Marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized.”  This amendment, which banned same-sex marriage as well as civil unions for straight or gay couples, passed 61% to 39%.    In the days that followed the passage of the amendment, President Obama stated, “It is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same sex couples should be able to get married.” Explore the constitutional issues around the events in North Carolina and President Obama’s response in this week’s eLesson.


Student Handout (PDF)

Teacher Key

Bill of Rights Institute Resources

U.S. Constitution
U.S. Bill of Rights

News Resources

Amendment 1: Same-sex marriage measure set for vote in North Carolina, WTSP.com
North Carolina passes same-sex marriage ban
, CNN
Amendment One: N.C. voters approve measure to block same-sex marriage
, Charlotte Observer
Obama on gay marriage: ‘Right thing to do’
, FOX News
President Obama Affirms His Support for Same Sex Marriage, ABC News
Obama Finds Middle Way on Gay Vows, New York Times

Questions to Consider

1)     What is Amendment One?

2)     Which constitutional provisions or principles have been used in support of legalizing gay marriage? Which have been used against legalizing it? What other arguments are made on each side, and which are most persuasive? Is the right to marry a partner of the same sex protected by the Constitution or the Bill of Rights?  Why or why not?

3)     How has freedom of religion played a role in same-sex marriage laws by proponents and opponents?

4)     How does Amendment One in North Carolina differ from the state law that was already on their books?

5)     According to the New York Times, President Obama said: “Different communities are arriving at different conclusions, at different times, and I think that’s a healthy process and a healthy debate.”  How did President Obama express his personal beliefs on the issue of gay marriage? How did President Obama describe his views on states’ power to regulate marriage?

6)     Do you think that same-sex marriage should be a federal issue or a state one?  Why?

Extension

Have students work in groups to research same-sex marriage laws throughout the country and ask them to think about these questions:

1)     Which states allow same-sex marriage?

2)     Which states do not allow same-sex marriage?

3)     Which states allow civil unions?

4)     Which states do not allow civil unions?

5)     What does your state say about same-sex marriage or civil unions?  Do you agree or disagree?  Why?

6)     What trends do you notice in same-sex marriage laws?

Have students report on their findings to the class.