CHARLOTTE, N.C -- The final push towards primary day is on in North Carolina, and Amendment One is getting as much attention as some candidates.
The amendment would make the ban on gay marriage in North Carolina part of the state Constitution, saying “marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this state.”
Advocates on both sides of the issue are ramping up their efforts to reach voters before they go to the polls for early voting or on election day, May 8th.
At Wedgewood Baptist Church, volunteers staffed a phone bank to persuade voters to vote against Amendment One.
“It’s 2012 and there’s no room for discrimination,” said Rev. Chris Ayers, Wedgewood’s pastor.
“We have laws against same sex marriage in our state,” said Ayers, “so there needs to be no more protection for such a person.”
Across town at Friendship Missionary Baptist Church, hundreds watched as the two sides debated. Three speakers on each side of the issue presented their views, and answered questions from the audience.
Rev. Mark Harris of First Baptist Church used Scripture in his argument for passing the amendment.
“God himself gave the first bride away, God himself performed the very first wedding ceremony,” said Harris. “We believe it's foundational to civilization. We feel like it's important to the foundation of our state as well as our nation.”
Rev. Harris said the current law banning same-sex marriages would be harder to change or overturn if it were in the Constitution.
But attorney Rob Harrington, who spoke against the amendment, said it doesn’t make the law clearer – it does just the opposite.
“The statute is already there,” said Harrington. “If anything, what this amendment does is muddy the waters. It’s not necessary, and it's vague.”
Adding more confusion for some voters is a second sentence in the amendment, which won’t appear on the ballot but would be included in the Constitution.
It says the amendment doesn’t stop one private party from entering into contracts with another private party, or stop courts from making decisions about the private parties in those contracts.
The two sides disagreed whether the provision would protect same-sex partner benefits in the work place.
Rev. Harris and another speaker in support of the amendment said such benefits would be considered a contract between private parties, and protected under the amendment.
Harrington isn’t so sure.
“We simply don’t know,” he said. “I believe, and lots of us believe, that there is a real risk that other provisions, protections, and contracts that are based on some kind of domestic relationship will be impacted in ways that at this point we simply don't know.”
That kind of complexity is what brought voter Pat Collins to Friendship Missionary on Sunday to listen.
“There’s been so much publicity about it,” she said. “I just really can’t quite figure out what is going on. I know there was always something on the books about marriage so I just wanted to be sure when I walk away today that I have the facts.”