By Susan Dickson
Despite a strong showing against Amendment One in Orange County, the constitutional amendment to define marriage as only between one man and one woman was approved by North Carolina voters on Tuesday.
Statewide, 61 percent, or 1,303,994, voted in favor of the amendment, with 39 percent, or 832,283, voting against.
In Orange County, voters came out strongly against the amendment, with nearly 79 percent, or 35,980, voting against, and about 21 percent, or 9,587, voting for. Buncombe, Dare, Watauga, Mecklenburg, Durham, Wake and Chatham counties also voted against the amendment, with the stateâ€™s remaining 92 counties voting for it.
â€œWe are disappointed in the results,â€ said Aaron Nelson, president and CEO of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce. â€œWe are proud of how Orange County voted and how the urbanized areas of North Carolina voted.â€
Opponents of the amendment argued that the measure could impact domestic-partner benefits offered by businesses and municipalities, and some said they worried that the amendment could drive businesses away or prevent them from coming to North Carolina.
â€œA lot of the proponents said this wasnâ€™t going to have any impact on the ways of businesses, and we look forward to helping them make good on that commitment,â€ Nelson said. â€œIt is still the case that North Carolina, and the Triangle in particular, is one of the greatest places to grow and start an enterprise, and maybe that is even underscored by this effort. This great coalition would prove that we have a very progressive business community.â€
Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt said he was shocked and disappointed by the results, and worried that the amendment could affect Chapel Hillâ€™s domestic-partner benefits for its employees. Carrboro, Chapel Hill and Orange County all offer domestic-partner benefits for their employees, and the Carrboro Board of Aldermen, Chapel Hill Town Council and Orange County Board of Commissioners all passed resolutions officially opposing the amendment.
â€œWeâ€™re really fortunate that we live in a community that gets it,â€ Kleinschmidt said. â€œBy that I mean that recognizes the value of full equality for everyone and that understands how dangerous this amendment could be to everyone in North Carolina. â€¦ We are going to have to work hard to â€¦ try to mitigate the potential damages this amendment could do and try to protect employees and protect our neighbors and families.â€
â€œI am concerned about potential challenges that others might bring to our benefits package,â€ he continued. â€œWe were sued back in the â€™90s when we began offering domestic-partner benefits, and we won, but that was in a time before there was a constitutional amendment.â€
Carrboro Board of Aldermen member Lydia Lavelle said she too was concerned about the amendmentâ€™s impacts on Carrboroâ€™s domestic-partner benefits.
â€œNow that the voteâ€™s actually happened, weâ€™re going to have our attorney take a look at the language of the amendment,â€ she said. â€œWeâ€™re certainly going to do everything we can to continue to offer domestic-partner benefits.â€
â€œItâ€™s more time, more expenditure of resources, more energy put into something. Itâ€™s just a shame that we have to do this, but itâ€™s just something that we have to do,â€ she added.
Lavelle said she is hopeful that support for the amendment will wane in coming years.
â€œIf we had managed to defeat it last night, it would have been in my view a watershed moment for the gay rights movement. I think the vote was much closer than it was five years ago,â€ she said, adding that five years from now, it would be even closer. â€œItâ€™s just a matter of time.â€