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Making same-sex marriage really illegal

Thinking about the North Carolina vote on same-sex marriage being decided today made me recall the scene in "Animal House" in which Dean Vernon feels compelled

Thinking about the North Carolina vote on same-sex marriage being decided today made me recall the scene in "Animal House" in which Dean Vernon feels compelled to invent, on the spot, a new way to punish a misbehaving fraternity already under probation. He called it "double-secret probation." More or less, that's a comic version of the very serious thing North Carolina could do today if they say yes to Amendment 1.

Folks have been very focused upon the Vice President's stated views on gay marriage, and the implications for the President. But as we noted over the weekend, even President Clinton got involved in the Amendment 1 fight. Right now, it looks as though it will pass, even though voters in the state may not even understand its implications.

If they need any guidance, they could do a lot worse than watching the speech embedded above given by North Carolina NAACP State Conference president Rev. William Barber -- our guest this past Saturday (at right) -- which positions the debate perfectly.

As he notes, the public conversation about Amendment 1 has largely been the wrong one. It's not about whether North Carolina supports same-sex marriage, which is not legal today. What Amendment 1 would do is codify that deprivation of marriage equality, to make it the law of the land so that not only would same-sex marriage be illegal, but also the state wouldn't validate or honor domestic partnerships or civil unions.

I'm pretty confident that this has nothing to do with God, folks. It'd be a law, as Rev. Barber put it, that prohibits equal protection under the law -- which traditionally isn't how government works. In fact, if it passes, Amendment 1 would be North Carolina's first regulation of marriage in nearly 140 years.

From the News & Observer out of Raleigh:

In 1875, we altered our charter to declare that “all marriages between a white person and a Negro or between a white person and a person of Negro descent to the third generation inclusive are, hereby, forever prohibited.” The 1875 amendment, too, was adopted shortly (two years) after an invigorated anti-miscegenation statute had been enacted by the legislature. Even more clearly than is the case today, the proponents could not have worried that an amendment was actually needed. No one fretted that a 19th century North Carolina court would invalidate the earlier separationist statutory rule.

Rev. Barber's powerful remarks, also highlighted last night on "The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell," contained one phrase that particularly stuck with me: "You should always be against division and hatred and discrimination being written into the constitution." You would think that politicians and voters in North Carolina (and elsewhere) who'd call themselves conservatives would agree with that sentiment.

Click below the jump to see our daily reads, as well as the second half of Melissa's two-part conversation last Saturday with Rev. Barber and three more of our guests about Amendment 1, and the question of whether legislation like it drives a wedge between black and LGBT voters.