DOMA ruling will not immediately impact NC's Amendment 1 - WSPA.com

DOMA ruling will not immediately impact NC's Amendment 1

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RALEIGH, N.C. -

Wednesday's ruling by the Supreme Court striking down a provision of a federal law denying federal benefits to married gay couples is a major victory for gay rights, but the decision will have little immediate impact on North Carolina.

Last year, North Carolina citizens voted in favor of a constitutional amendment -- commonly referred to as Amendment 1 -- defining marriage as solely between a man and a woman.

North Carolina law already banned gay marriage, but Amendment 1 effectively slammed the door shut on same-sex marriages. The amendment also goes beyond state law by voiding other types of domestic unions from carrying legal status.

Wendy Scott, a professor of law at North Carolina Central University, explained that the Supreme Court's ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act still leaves the issue of gay marriage up to the individual state, allowing the state to define marriage.

Wednesday's ruling, Scott said, only applies to states that recognize same-sex couples, like New York and California. According to Amendment 1, North Carolina does not recognize same-sex unions.

The NC Values Coalition, a group that supported Amendment 1, applauded the Supreme Court for upholding "the right of states to determine marriage policy."

"We are thankful that North Carolina's marriage amendment is not immediately impacted by the ruling," executive director Tami Fitzgerald said. "Citizens in the 50 states are still free to debate, discuss, and defend marriage."

Fitzgerald added, "If there are any future challenges to North Carolina's marriage amendment, it is the job of our Attorney General, under the state's Constitution, to defend it."

Timeline on same-sex marriage

Rep. David Price, a Democrat and the U.S. Representative for North Carolina's 4th Congressional district, praised the Supreme Court ruling, saying it is a "victory for all who believe in an America that does not discriminate on the basis of race, gender, age religion or sexual orientation."

"Although many states continue to treat same-sex couples as second class citizens, it is clear that equal protection under the law for all Americans is only a matter of time and that history will judge these efforts at discrimination harshly," Price said.

Scott said she does not believe the ruling will set a precedent for any future amendments in North Carolina.

"In our state, the options are limited, unless there's a groundswell from the public," Scott said. "It could create political momentum, but not legal momentum."

The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina said the decision "makes us more determined than ever to secure equal rights for LGBT North Carolinians."

"This fight is not over until North Carolina and every other state in the nation recognizes that our gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender friends, neighbors, and family members all deserve the opportunity to marry the person they love and be treated equally under the law," the ACLU of North Carolina said.

Patrick Wooden, the senior pastor at Upper Room Church of God in Christ, was at the forefront of last year's fight that led to North Carolina becoming the 31st state to constitutionally forbid same sex marriage. He said the people of North Carolina have already spoken on the issue and the Supreme Court should uphold that law.

"Here we are again, watching the Supreme Court over rule the will of the people," Wooden said. "Eight million Californians voted in favor of Proposition 8 -- this is a democracy -- and the Supreme Court overturned 8 million votes.

"The people of North Carolina have spoken on this issue. We did it peacefully; no one was lynched, hung or shot in the streets. And I think the law should be upheld."

Still, Wooden acknowledged that the Supreme Court's ruling builds momentum for the LGBT community.

"It is a signal that America is going in a different direction and, in my opinion, spiraling downhill."

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