What does the anti-gay amendment mean? There's a commission for that.

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Opponents call it Amendment One (or 1). Proponents call it the Defense of Marriage Amendment. If approved by the voters May 8, it will add to the state constitution language barring the state from recognizing same-sex marriages, same-sex civil unions and any other "domestic legal union" that two people might devise that isn't a marriage between a man and a woman.

So what would this phraseology really mean to people's lives? Enter the Constitutional Amendments Publication Commission, which exists to explain it. Its job — per the 1983 statute which created it — is to write a clear explanation for the public. It meets Thursday afternoon in Raleigh; the meeting is open to the public.

The commission, by the way, calls it the Marriage Amendment. The members, all ex-officio, are Secretary of State Elaine Marshall, Attorney General Roy Cooper and Legislative Services Officer George Hall.

Here's the official meeting notice:

Raleigh — The Constitutional Amendments Publication Commission will meet on Thursday, March 1 at 3:30 p.m. in the third floor Legislative Auditorium of the NC Legislative Building at 16 West Jones Street in Raleigh to prepare an official explanation of the proposed Marriage Amendment (Session Law 2011-409) to the North Carolina Constitution that will be put before voters in the upcoming May 8, 2012 election.

The Commission was created in 1983 and given the standing duty pursuant to N.C.G.S. § 147-54.8, to prepare explanatory language for all proposed constitutional amendments. By law, the language approved by the Commission will not appear on the ballot, but will be made available to the public and the media, and will be available to voters through county boards of election prior to the May election.

The Commission’s duty and function is limited to preparing an explanation of the proposed amendment in simple and commonly used language. Therefore, this meeting is not a forum for advocacy in favor of or in opposition to the proposed amendment.

The Commission meeting is open to the public.

The public is also invited to submit proposed draft language for the explanation to the Commission before the meeting. Draft text must be limited to the explanation of the proposed amendment. All suggested text should be emailed to CAPC@sosnc.com or delivered to the Constitutional Amendments Publication Commission, C/O NC Secretary of State, 2 South Salisbury St., Raleigh, NC 27601-2903 and must be received by Noon on Wednesday, February 29, 2012.

If it becomes necessary for the Commission to continue its meeting to a second day, then the group will meet on Friday, March 2 at 9 a.m. in the third floor Legislative Auditorium of the NC Legislative Building at 16 West Jones Street in Raleigh.

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The amendment would alter Article 14 of the constitution, adding a new Section 6 as follows:

Marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this State. This section does not prohibit a private party from entering into contracts with another private party; nor does this section prohibit courts from adjudicating the rights of private parties pursuant to such contracts."

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