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The Plain English Attorney

We lost.

Not just Protect All NC Families. Not just the Human Rights Campaign. Not even just domestic partners and the LGBT community, but the entire state of North Carolina. Businesses will think twice before moving here, or they may take a harder look at offers from other states to relocate. Domestic violence statutes will be thrown into chaos for years. And municipalities wishing to continue to provide partner benefits will no doubt have to defend lawsuits from people who don’t want “their tax dollars” going to “those people.” Worst of all, North Carolina will now be joined in solidarity with other Deep South national reputations for being backwards and bigoted places to live. Twenty years from now when children start growing up in a reality of national gay marriage, they will look back at the people of North Carolina like they do now when talking about racist hold outs in the 1960s demanding to keep separate water fountains and bathrooms for blacks and whites and enforcing bans on interracial marriage.

But where do we go from here? The fight for equality will continue. The coalition of pro-equality groups embodied in Protect All NC Families have shown that they can work together and put large common goals ahead of smaller individual ones. I will continue in my role on the Board of Governors for the Human Rights Campaign, and I will continue to help organize people politically. But for the time being, securing equal rights will be falling into the purview of the lawyers.

Even the legislators who voted to put the measure on the ballot knew the interpretation of their abomination of an amendment would be handled by the courts. Lawyers will now have to fight to limit the reach and scope of the amendment. Lawyers will have to fight the amendment on federal constitutional grounds. And, yes, attorneys will have to retool their legal documents to make sure partner couples can take advantage of those rights still available to them under the law.

In my years of reviewing partner couple documents, I know there are a lot of attorneys who will have to make some major changes. Fortunately for our own clients, this will not be necessary. In an effort to be precise and not rely on references to the term “partner” (which in North Carolina law legally only referred to business dealings), we designed our documents to avoid those references. Further, even in the joining of partners’ property under property agreements the terms were kept to strictly an economic joining of property rather than creating “individual” rights under a contract.

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