Marriage amendment language too broad, Piedmont lawyer says

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

ELON, N.C. -- An Elon University law professor said he believes the wording in the state's marriage amendment proposal is dangerously broad.

The first line in the amendment reads, "Marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized by the state."

Michael Rich said his biggest concern is about the phrase "domestic legal union."

"We don't know exactly what the amendment means by 'domestic legal union.' It could be interpreted to mean anytime the state law recognizes a relationship between unmarried people, and so that could apply to child custody, to health benefits," Rich said.

Rich also said he believes the amendment could prevent unmarried partners from making end-of-life decisions.

"There's a good argument that the only thing that would come out of the marriage amendment is a lot more litigation, both about what the amendment means and also because it's so much broader. I think the marriage amendment is more open to attack on constitutional grounds than just the statute that is in place," Rich said.

Rich said the amendment would prevent only a state judge from overturning the law. State Sen. Phil Berger, who helped get the amendment on the ballot, said if that's true, then at least the state has protected itself from state judges.

Rich also said the law could potentially force cities like Greensboro to stop offering benefits to same-sex partners of employees.

However, State Sen. Phil Berger said that isn't the case.

"If the amendment passes, any private corporation that offers partner benefits would not be impacted by this. But if a municipality or governmental entity offers partner benefits, there are fairly simple modifications that could be made that would allow those kinds of benefits to continue," Berger said.

The amendment vote takes place during the May 8 primary. The city of Greensboro voted Tuesday to approve a resolution opposing the amendment.

If you want to see arguments from both sides on the issue, here are links for groups on both sides of the issue: protectncfamilies.org and ncvalues.org.