(RALEIGH, N.C.) — Republicans and Democrats in North Carolina will head to the polls on Tuesday to cast votes in a series of contests, but with the presidential primary all but finished, it’s likely that a statewide initiative regarding same-sex marriage will be the race to gain the most attention nationally.
The measure being decided on Tuesday is North Carolina Amendment One — a proposed amendment to the state constitution that, if passed, would make marriage between a man and a woman the only state-recognized, legal union.
“Marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this State,” the language of the proposed new law reads.
And if passed, the amendment would go a step further than simply outlawing same-sex marriage, which is already illegal in the state. It would mean that the state would cease to recognize any type of legal union between non-married couples — gay or straight.
“The constitutional amendment will bar same-sex marriage, but it also goes much further in that it bars civil unions,” says Jean Cary, Professor of Law at Campbell Law School in Raleigh, N.C.
Several counties and towns within the state offer domestic partnership benefits to both gay and straight couples. But those benefits would be in jeopardy if the bill passes.
“We have half a dozen counties or towns that provide domestic partnership benefits to their employees. If this passes, all of those families who are receiving medical insurance under a domestic partnership arrangement would lose those benefits immediately,” Cary said.
Several prominent Democrats, including Bill Clinton, have come out against the amendment. Clinton recorded a robo-call urging North Carolinians to vote against it.
Support for the referendum has come from high-profile individuals as well. The Reverend Billy Graham, who lives in Asheville, N.C., took out a series of full page ads in 14 local newspapers to run his statement of support for the amendment over the weekend.
Polling suggests that the bill is likely to pass. If passed, the amendment would become part of the state constitution, making overturning the legislation an arduous task.
Legal scholars suggest that if voters choose to pass the amendment, another statewide referendum likely would be necessary to overturn it. But that likely would require a Democratic takeover of the state legislature.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio