The Washington Post

North Carolina votes on same-sex marriage amendment with support strong for ban

Correction: An earlier version of this story erroneously reported that same-sex marriage bans would be on the ballot in Maryland and Washington state. Voters in those states are being asked to affirm measures that would allow gay marriage. The story has been corrected.

North Carolina voters approved a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage Tuesday, dealing a setback to a gay rights movement that has enjoyed significant momentum in recent years.

With less than a third of the returns tallied, the measure had enough support to pass, according to the Associated Press. It strengthens a same-sex marriage ban already on the books in North Carolina, which until Tuesday had been the only state in the Southeast that had not taken the step of incorporating the ban into its constitution.

Opponents of same-sex marriage said the measure was necessary to prevent courts or future legislatures from invalidating the law. The effort provoked an outcry from gay rights groups, which said it represented a significant step backward because it would bar even civil unions and could have unintended consequences for heterosexual couples.

(Google+ Hangout with The Fix at 3 p.m. ET: The future of same-sex marriage.).

The debate drew scrutiny from around the country, with the Obama campaign and former president Bill Clinton voicing their opposition to the measure and figures such as the Rev. Billy Graham and former presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich speaking out in favor of it.

The vote came as Obama is under pressure to clarify his position on same-sex marriage, a hot-button issue that has proved to be a galvanizing force for conservatives and liberals alike.

Obama has said he is still making up his mind on the issue, even as two top officials in his administration spoke out in favor of same-sex marriage this week.

It also came amid a sea change of public opinion on same-sex unions. Polls show a slight majority of Americans support same-sex marriage, a dramatic shift from just eight years ago. Six states and the District allow gay couples to wed, and gay rights groups have accumulated a string of legal victories.

The gains have provoked a backlash from opponents, who argue that heterosexual marriage is a building block of society because of its role in procreation. They believe they have ceded too much ground and view the North Carolina constitutional amendment as a significant win because it is so broad.

On Tuesday, socially conservative groups pointed to the vote as evidence that the American public remains opposed to same-sex marriage, despite the polls.

“This overwhelming support for marriage is clearly the reason why President Obama and liberal congressional candidates across the country have not expressed open support for same-sex marriage,” Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, said in a statement. “They know that redefining marriage remains a losing position in mainstream American politics.”

Gay rights groups late Tuesday lamented their loss but called it a temporary setback.

“The passage of Amendment One is a heartbreaking loss for families in North Carolina, but will not stop us in the march toward full equality,” Joe Solomonese, president of the pro-gay-rights Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement.

Though turnout was moderate Tuesday, a record 500,000 people cast early ballots, which elections officials attributed to passion over the same-sex marriage ban. Polls showed solid support for the measure among likely voters, including African Americans, a key Democratic constituency that has remained skeptical about gay marriage.

Supporters of same-sex marriage argued that the amendment could have a ripple effect, complicating domestic violence cases and limiting the rights of unmarried heterosexual couples. They cited analyses by legal scholars who pointed to Ohio, where a similar measure temporarily wreaked havoc in the courts. But other legal experts, whose work was highlighted by gay-marriage opponents, have said there was little evidence to support that claim.

Conservatives in North Carolina had long sought to put a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage on the ballot. Year after year they were thwarted by Democrats in the state legislature. But in 2010, Republicans swept both houses for the first time since 1870, giving conservatives the opportunity to move forward on the issue.

Despite the gains by supporters of same-sex marriage, they have never won a referendum. Gay rights groups hope to break that streak in November.

Same-sex marriage will be on the ballot in Maryland, Minnesota, Washington state and Maine.

Sandhya Somashekhar is the social change reporter for the Washington Post.

The Freddie Gray case

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Campaign 2016 Email Updates

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Get Zika news by email

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!
Show Comments
Republicans debated Saturday night. The South Carolina GOP primary and the Nevada Democratic caucuses are next on Feb. 20. Get caught up on the race.
The Post's Dan Balz says...
Rarely has the division between Trump and party elites been more apparent. Trump trashed one of the most revered families in Republican politics and made a bet that standing his ground is better than backing down. Drawing boos from the audience, Trump did not flinch. But whether he will be punished or rewarded by voters was the unanswerable question.
GOP candidates react to Justice Scalia's death
I don't know how he knows what I said on Univision because he doesn't speak Spanish.
Sen. Marco Rubio, attacking Sen. Ted Cruz in Saturday night's very heated GOP debate in South Carolina. Soon after, Cruz went on a tirade in Spanish.
The Fix asks The State's political reporter where the most important region of the state is.
The State's Andy Shain says he could talk about Charleston, which represents a little bit of everything the state has to offer from evangelicals to libertarians, and where Ted Cruz is raising more money than anywhere else. In a twist, Marco Rubio is drawing strong financial support from more socially conservative Upstate. That said, Donald Trump is bursting all the conventional wisdom in the state. So maybe the better answer to this question is, "Wherever Trump is."
Past South Carolina GOP primary winners
South Carolina polling averages
Donald Trump leads in the first state in the South to vote, where he faces rivals Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio.
South Carolina polling averages
The S.C. Democratic primary is Feb. 27. Clinton has a significant lead in the state, whose primary falls one week after the party's Nevada caucuses.
62% 33%
The complicated upcoming voting schedule
Feb. 20

Democrats caucus in Nevada; Republicans hold a primary in South Carolina.

Feb. 23

Republicans caucus in Nevada.

Feb. 27

Democrats hold a primary in South Carolina.

Upcoming debates
Feb 13: GOP debate

on CBS News, in South Carolina

Feb. 25: GOP debate

on CNN, in Houston, Texas

March 3: GOP debate

on Fox News, in Detroit, Mich.

Campaign 2016
Where the race stands
Most Read


Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

Close video player
Now Playing

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.