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North Carolina lawmakers have decided, by the narrowest of margins, that Tarheel voters should join the party of 30 other states by spending millions of dollars and tons of time on a divisive and unnecessary amendment to the state’s constitution.

The amendment would define “marriage” as being only between one man and one woman, but its singular purpose is to deny the legal benefits of marriage to gays and lesbians.

Supporters of the measure speak as if heterosexual marriage is the absolute bedrock of society, suggesting that if gays and lesbians are allowed to marry, civilization as we know it will come crashing down.

Anyone who pays the least bit of attention has to be aware that the biggest threats to heterosexual marriage are the people who participate in them. People change. People make mistakes. People grow in different directions. People fail to communicate effectively. Heterosexual marriages end in divorce with uncomfortable frequency, but almost always with no assistance whatsoever from the possibility that the courts might one day overturn the state’s existing law against gay marriage.

One thing we can be sure of is that the next eight months or so will prove to be a highly contentious time in which millions and millions of dollars that could have been spent on helping the poor or creating jobs will go instead to defending or opposing an ideological amendment that has no practical purpose. Television stations and public relations firms will get a short-term bonus of advertising dollars, but out-of-state companies will be less likely to bring their business to a less than tolerant state.

if the legislature wants to amend something, perhaps it could amend its priorities to focus on issues that will make North Carolina a stronger state, not a more divided one.

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