On Gay Rights, North Carolina Doesn't Look like Mississippi -- It Looks Worse

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COMMENTARY | On Friday, North Carolina Gov. Beverly Perdue may have gotten a little too candid when speaking to reporters from a local news station.

WITN asked Perdue what she thought about the passage of Amendment One, a controversial amendment to the North Carolina constitution that restricts legal recognition of domestic partnerships to marriages between one man and one woman -- meaning both same-sex couples and unmarried straight couples (even those with children) should no longer expect the North Carolina legal system to recognize their union.

With the national eye on North Carolina, and A-list celebrities like Ellen Degeneres and Neil Patrick Harris tweeting their disappointment to a national audience, Perdue may have stepped out of line a bit in her answer:

"People around the country are watching us, and they're really confused to have been such a progressive forward thinking economically driven state that invested in education and that stood up for the civil rights people including the civil rights marches back in the 50s and 60s and 70s," said Perdue. "People are saying what in the world is going on with North Carolina, we look like Mississippi."

Yikes.

Perdue's sentiment makes sense. There's a stereotype of Southerners being socially backward uber-conservatives with a strong distaste of the gay rights movement. However, for someone who seems so interested in breaking that stereotype, it's odd to hear her play to it.

Prior to Tuesday, North Carolina was the only Southern state without such an amendment to its constitution. Now, compared to North Carolina, Mississippi's amendment almost seems tame. Passed in 2004 by 86 percent of the population, Mississippi's Amendment 1 bans same-sex couples from marrying in the state, while North Carolina's Amendment One restricts legal recognition of any domestic partnership that is not between one man and one woman.

The difference in the language is the key here. Mississippi's constitutional amendment affects only homosexual couples, which is bad enough, but North Carolina's has been noted to have negative effects on heterosexual couples as well, especially those who are not married. Children of unmarried couples who rely on one parent for health care and unmarried individuals who are victims of domestic abuse may end up without the protection they need due to North Carolina's restrictive new amendment.

In essence, Amendment One doesn't make North Carolina look like Mississippi, but it makes us look worse. We're still a leader in the South, but on the wrong side of history; we're currently the top dog in the yard when it comes to discrimination against homosexuals.

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