Watauga defies state on amendment vote
A majority of North Carolina voters are “for” a constitutional amendment stating that the marriage of one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this state.
By midnight Tuesday, the referendum had passed statewide with about 61 percent for and about 39 percent against the amendment.
But Watauga County defied that trend, with 50.8 percent voting against and 49.2 percent voting for, according to unofficial results.
Watauga was one of only seven counties in the state in which a majority were against the amendment.
“Statewide, I'm glad that one way or another, it was a strong showing,” said state Sen. Dan Soucek of Boone, one of the primary sponsors of the bill that led to the referendum. “A 20-point victory is a pretty solid mandate for what the people of North Carolina wanted.”
Soucek said he believed endorsements from noted North Carolina evangelist Billy Graham and others in the last week helped push momentum for the amendment.
The outpouring of information and guidance — on both sides — from the faith community has been a hallmark of the debate in Watauga County.
While the Three Forks Baptist Association hosted a rally April 10 at Watauga High School in support of the amendment, other congregations from the Boone Unitarian Universalist Fellowship and High Country Church of Christ sponsored a series of newspaper advertisements opposing.
Associate Pastor Bud Russell of Mount Vernon Baptist Church said his church tried as best it could to interpret for the congregation what the Bible said on the matter.
“I am grateful that the people have had that opportunity to vote their convictions,” Russell said.
Meanwhile, local opponents of the amendment expressed pleasure at Watauga's stance but disappointment in the cumulative result.
“Part of the sadness is to know that there are a lot of folks out there that deserve every bit as much as I've got,” said Marg McKinney, who actively opposed the amendment. “Just because they've got a different sort of life, they might not have the same right I do.”
McKinney was part of the Peoples' Alliance for American Liberty, a Watauga County-based group that formed to fight the amendment.
“I think it really has a lot to do with people just not fully understanding the implications of that decision,” McKinney said.
On both sides, the voters of Watauga County and of North Carolina were bombarded with instruction and opinions on how they ought to vote.
The Watauga County Board of Commissioners approved a resolution supporting the amendment on April 3 in a 3-1 vote, an action that drew a small group of community members to respond in statements of anger and disappointment at two later meetings.
The statewide political action committees that formed in support and in opposition of the amendment spent more than $3 million combined in efforts to draw voters to their sides.
Now, the voters have spoken, and according to law, the amendment will become part of the N.C. Constitution as soon as the results are certified.
“This was heated,” Soucek said. “There was a lot of information on it. It's not like something that slipped under the radar, which is good — it shouldn't.”