PUBLISHED:February 29, 2012

DBA Executive Board releases statement opposing N.C. marriage amendment

The Duke Bar Association Executive Board has released a statement opposing North Carolina’s upcoming ballot measure to amend the state constitution on the matter of domestic legal unions.

By a majority vote, members of the Executive Board approved the following statement on the measure:

“The Duke Bar Association’s mission is to foster a collegial, engaging, and professional educational environment at Duke University School of Law. A strong commitment to diversity in our education, community, and broader society is a significant component of our educational and community objectives. We promote this goal by valuing all members of our law school community, including our lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students, alumni, faculty, and staff.

“We believe recognizing the families of LGBT students, alumni, faculty, and staff is an essential part of Duke’s ability to nurture excellence. In addition, our commitment to diversity and equality extends beyond the campus to our larger community and region. In that spirit, the Duke Bar Association Executive Board opposes the proposed amendment to the North Carolina Constitution. Where a legislative ban on same-sex unions already exists, the only clear purpose of the proposed amendment is to write discrimination into North Carolina’s most revered document. We fear this constitutional ban on state recognition of same-sex unions will have a significant and negative impact on Duke Law community members.

“The Duke Bar Association Executive Board reaffirms its commitment to providing equal treatment to all students, alumni, faculty, and staff. We condemn any amendment to the North Carolina Constitution that intends to institute invidious discrimination and intolerance. We stand alongside the LGBT community to ensure Duke University School of Law remains a critical haven of tolerance for all students.”

On May 8, North Carolinians will vote on a proposed constitutional amendment providing that marriage between one man and one woman is the only valid and recognizable legal union in the state. If approved, the measure would amend Article 14 of the state constitution. The proposed measure was crafted and passed by the General Assembly last September and will appear on primary ballots in the state.

North Carolina already bans same-sex marriages and civil unions by statute.

DBA President Justin Becker ’12 said the board’s goal with the statement is to send the message that Duke Law is an open and welcoming community.

“This is especially important at a time when we are seeing individuals take their lives because of personal struggles with sexual identity,” he said. “When discrimination is written into a constitution, it adds fuel to this fire and does nothing productive for the state.

“This isn’t about a disagreement on the issue of same-sex marriage,” he added. “We disagree with the proposal to place discrimination into the constitution, the founding document of the state that is held in such high reverence; an important function of a constitution is to protect minority rights from majoritarian rules. As law students, we of all people should pay attention to these concerns, given that this is what we study and these are the types of issues we grapple with as a profession.”