What began as a discussion of the legality of the Defense of Marriage Act—DOMA—morphed into a conversation about the morality of the anti-LGBT amendment.
Last week's teach-in and panel discussion was hosted by N.C. Central University School of Law. Panelists included N.C. Central law professors Irving Joyner, Lydia Lavelle and Angela Gilmore; UNC-Chapel Hill law professor Barbara Fedders and Duke law professor James Coleman Jr.
Lavelle told the audience that DOMA, also known as Amendment 1, is one of the strictest of its kind in the nation. It states, "Marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid." Not only could same-sex partnerships lose certain rights, but any domestic union, regardless of gender pairing, could lose rights as well.
"Any other intimate relationship between two adults won't be granted legal respect," Gilmore said.
Joyner added that the legal right of due process could be abridged, because DOMA would strip people of certain fundamental rights, such as entering into contracts. Same-sex couples would not have the "right to contract, because marriage is a contractual relationship."
Beyond the legal implications, Coleman blasted DOMA on moral grounds. "The reason we should oppose this amendment is because it's wrong, not primarily because it raises troubling legal issues, but because it's offensive to what a constitution is supposed to be " he said. "It is a bigoted attempt to amend the state constitution."
Coleman also questioned the motives of DOMA supporters. He said that he believes lawmakers who sponsored Amendment 1 are attempting to give it legitimacy by cloaking it in religion—and by trying to appeal to conservative black churches.
"The sponsors of this amendment have made an aggressive effort to solicit the votes of black people, appealing to their religious faith. This is a cynical and crass political campaign which we should actively oppose," Coleman said.
Coleman compared DOMA to the constitutionality of interracial marriage, which, despite a 1967 U.S. Supreme Court decision, technically remained illegal in North Carolina until 1971. DOMA "has no more to do with religion than anti-miscegenation laws had to do with religion."
Tiara Hodges is an intern at the Independent Weekly.
This article appeared in print with the headline "'A cynical and crass political campaign.'"