Despite Amendment One, city of Asheville will continue domestic partner benefits

Despite the passage of Amendment One in May, declaring that “marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this State,” the city of Asheville will continue to offer domestic partner benefits to its employees.

During the debate over Amendment One, both supporters and opponents asserted that it would invalidate the domestic partner benefits passed by Asheville and a number of other local governments around the sate.

But after the amendment’s passage, City Attorney Bob Oast said that understanding its impact on the city’s benefits required more study. Cheryl Howell, a professor of public law at the UNC School of Government also noted shortly after the amendment’s passage that “nobody knows anything for certain” due to the lack of clarity in its language, especially the unclear definition of “domestic legal union.”

Now the city has decided to forge ahead.

“If you want to know whether the city will continue to administer its domestic partner policy the same as if Amendment One did not pass, the answer is yes,” Assistant City Attorney Martha McGlohon tells Xpress. She adds that she expects the state attorney general’s office to soon issue an opinion clarifying the effect of Amendment One on municipalities.

In a public law bulletin released by Durham’s Independent Weekly, School of Government professor Diane Jaffras asserts that Amendment One leave such benefits intact.

“In my opinion, Amendment One does not take away the authority of North Carolina local government employers to offer domestic partner benefits,” she writes. “But we won’t know the answer for sure until the courts, when called upon, rule.”

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