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The conservative case against North Carolina’s Amendment One

At least since Edmund Burke, whom many consider the forerunner of modern conservatism, conservatives believes we must consider the circumstances of any given situation before developing a law, should the circumstances require one, to remedy it.  Burkean conservatives avoid one-size=fits=all solutions and recognize that some laws should change as times change, while others stay the same.  Some strictures remain as valid today as they were in the ancient world, others outdated, belonging quite literally to another era.

“Circumstances,” Burke wrote, “give in reality to every political principle its distinguishing color and discriminating effect.”

A conservative doesn’t change for change’s sake, but he doesn’t impede a change when circumstances require one.  North Carolina’s Amendment One which is today before the voters of the Tarheel State would prevent the state’s General Assembly, its elected legislature, from crafting laws to reflect the changing circumstances of gays and lesbians in that state.

Its defeat would not lead directly to state recognition of same-sex marriage in North Carolina nor even to state recognition of same-sex civil unions, but merely leave both options — and others as well — open to future legislatures.  And bear in mind that every member of those legislatures will be subject to popular election.  All a vote against Amendment One does is keep the issue of same-sex unions open to the elected representatives of North Carolina’s citizens.  Its defeat will not require churches to perform gay weddings.

I urge North Carolina conservatives to hold true to long-standing conservative principles and to vote today against Amendment One.



  1. All very well stated. I think though that the concern about the non-passage of a state constitutional amendment inevitably leading to state recognition of same-sex marriage is real, given how widely the court system is used to bypass both direct and representative democracy. A court can overturn an amendment, but it’s a bigger deal than overturning a law that hadn’t changed a state constitution. None of this is to say that government recognition of same-sex marriage isn’t a change for the better. I’m unsure myself, but I think it could be. So, I’m not exactly endorsing this amendment. But I think the way things have been going across this country over the last decade, this is probably the NC voters’ best and perhaps only chance to prevent same-sex marriage recognition in their state.

    Comment by chad — May 8, 2012 @ 8:09 am - May 8, 2012

  2. ROFLMAO. Conservative cause……ROFLMAO. The EU and Russia reject the social activism of the APAs/ABA and the Swedish model in the interest of children and D BLatt evokes Edmund Burke. ROFLMAO. Have you no shame, Dan?

    Comment by rjligier — May 8, 2012 @ 8:36 am - May 8, 2012

  3. he doesn’t impeded ?? BDB little typo?

    Comment by rusty — May 8, 2012 @ 8:55 am - May 8, 2012

  4. Dan,

    While I think the language I’ve read seems a bit more restrictive than Ohio’s DOMA, I’d point out that the amendment is defensive in nature. Again, I am unfamiliar with NC’s amendment process, but in Ohio, movemetns to modify the Ohio DOMA are already underway here.

    Comment by The Livewire — May 8, 2012 @ 9:43 am - May 8, 2012

  5. I’m a conservative voter typically. On this one I am stumped. Is this something a conservative really needs to weigh in on? I could vote either way on this personally. And I could just not vote on this. Help me out. I will be going to the polls later today.

    Comment by Jack — May 8, 2012 @ 9:49 am - May 8, 2012

  6. Some strictures remain as valid today as they were in the ancient world, others outdated, belonging quite literally to another era.

    If gay marriage is “an idea whose time has come” then bring it on. However, “Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments traditions long established should not be changed for light and transient causes.” The battle is thus enjoined.

    It is clear that amending the North Carolina constitution to cut off the possibility of gay marriage and civil unions is as strict a directive as requiring a balanced budget. The people have the right to make that decision. They can also come back and rescind it, if the times demand it.

    This is a classic case of the clash of principles.

    I urge North Carolina conservatives to hold true to long-standing conservative principles and to vote today against Amendment One.

    I see this plea as non sequitur to the conundrum Burke posited. The amendment is a power test for diverging views which Brutus articulated brilliantly:

    There is a tide in the affairs of men.
    Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
    Omitted, all the voyage of their life
    Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
    On such a full sea are we now afloat,
    And we must take the current when it serves,
    Or lose our ventures.

    The conservative view is with tradition and not fixing what is not broken. The “desired change” view is that the tradition is confining and discriminatory against gays and lesbians.

    The question is, would gays and lesbians support an amendment against polygamy and child marriage as a quid pro quo to getting admission to the marriage tradition? If so, does that not indicate that this is a power game at heart?

    Comment by heliotrope — May 8, 2012 @ 10:59 am - May 8, 2012

  7. Another thing I would note is that state constitutional amendments are not nearly as permanent as amendments to the US Constitution. (At least, this is true in states where a simple majority is required, which is the case in most states, unless I’m mistaken.) A narrowly passed amendment to a state constitution can be overturned in just a few short years by a constitutional amendment repealing it as public sentiment changes from a slight majority in support of the original amendment to a slight majority in opposition; it’s easy to see that happening with same-sex marriage. An amendment to the US Constitution, on the other hand, is difficult to pass given that 2/3 of both houses (absent a constitutional convention) and 3/4 of states must support that amendment. Anything that can garner that sort of support basically represents a position so popular that opposition to that the issue isn’t really controversial, e.g., not same-sex marriage or abortion or anything like that. And a US Constitutional amendment, once passed, is unlikely to be overturned given how difficult it is to get over half the states, 1/3 of senators, and 1/3 of representatives to change their opinion. That’s a lot of office holders either changing their minds or getting voted out of office. An amendment would have to be a complete failure (such as prohibition) to effect that sort of swing. But state amendments are basically just there to represent the current will of the people of a given state. Voting for NC’s amendment really won’t affect the ability of NC voters to change the law in a few years but rather will affect the ability of judges to set the law for them.

    Comment by Chad — May 8, 2012 @ 11:32 am - May 8, 2012

  8. Nicely put.

    BTW you have a typo: “…but he doesn’t impeded a change” should be “…doesn’t impede a change…” – an extra d has crept in there somewhere.

    The left continues to equate ‘right-wing’ and ‘conservative’ with “worst kind of homophobic, misogynistic bigot”, and to fly into a screaming HOW DARE YOU rage when corrected. Fuck them. Ungently, with an aircraft carrier, sideways.

    Comment by perturbed — May 8, 2012 @ 11:39 am - May 8, 2012

  9. chad,

    It varies by state to state. I remember one reason Iowa was ‘picked’ as a target of ‘marriage by lawsuit’ is the extreme difficulty in amending the Constitution. I think MA is another one like that.

    Comment by The Livewire — May 8, 2012 @ 11:43 am - May 8, 2012

  10. rusty and perturbed, thanks for catching that. Since fixed. Perils of writing a post in the wee hours of the morning.

    Comment by B. Daniel Blatt — May 8, 2012 @ 11:51 am - May 8, 2012

  11. […] The conservative case against North Carolina's Amendment One The conservative case against North Carolina's Amendment One · Two cultural phenomena intersecting · Time after time since he took office, Obama has failed to show the fortitude to stand up to hateful and over-the-line … […]

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  12. The conservative in me would say that if we were to hold to conservative principles, the government would stop issuing marriage licenses, and thus marriages will be the responsibility of the church. Any other such arrangement is between the two parties, which I suspect will crawl back into their rock/cave. Certainly, the government should issue domestic partnerships and all the child credits they want.

    Comment by anon23532 — May 8, 2012 @ 4:24 pm - May 8, 2012

  13. You forget to include in your ass kissing the hate and disgust some conservatives have for gay people.

    Comment by George insane — May 9, 2012 @ 12:36 am - May 9, 2012

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