September 12th, 2011
08:42 PM ET

N.C. House votes to put constitutional same-sex marriage ban on ballot

[Updated at 8:42 p.m. ET] The North Carolina House voted Monday to put on the 2012 ballot a constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage in the state, a spokesman for the House speaker said.

The bill, which the House approved 76-41, now goes to the Senate. Three-fifths of the House's 120 members - 72 - were required for the bill to pass.

If the measure passes in the entire Legislature and is approved by voters during the primary in May, North Carolina would become the final state in the Southeast to add a constitutional amendment regarding same-sex marriage.

"This amendment pushes the power away from us and pushes the decision to the people of North Carolina," state Rep. Dale Folwell, a Republican from Winston-Salem and the speaker pro tem, said.

Proponents of the measure said they felt it was important that the amendment be added so that it would protect the state's policy on gay marriage. North Carolina currently has a ban on same-sex marriage, but legislators are seeking to protect that ban by chiseling it into their constitution.

The bill came to the House floor Monday after a House committee passed it by a voice vote earlier in the day. Many Democrats who opposed the measure argued that Republicans, who are in the majority in the Legislature for the first time in 140 years, were trying to push the amendment through quickly without allowing for a real debate or public comment. Republicans argued that the content of the proposed amendment has long been known, even if the specific wording was not.

During debate on the House floor, Rep. Susan Fisher, a Democrat from Asheville, questioned why legislators were asking for such swift movement on the issue.

"I think it's somewhat ironic that we would be asked to debate or have this bill in front of us for immediate consideration," she said. "I don't think you ever consider an amendment to the state constitution immediately, yet here we are."

Jordan Shaw, communications director for North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis, told CNN that he did not believe there was a requirement to have a public debate on the issue.

"But I would point out the very nature of this measure would be for the people to vote on it," he said. "It is hard to have a more democratic process than to put it up to the voters."

The amendment would add the following language to the constitution:

"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."

Fisher argued that regardless of the semantics and arguments about the proposed amendment, she felt there were large problems with it overall.

"What happens with this amendment is once again we seek to marginalize a group of individuals who only want equality and the same basic rights afforded to every citizen of this state," she said.

She questioned why some legislators insist on repeating what she described as bad lessons from their state's history.

"I remember a recent session where we went to great lengths, and necessary ones I believe, to issue an apology to African-American citizens for injustices," she said. "What I think is about to happen here is another instance where in the not-too- distant future we will be apologizing again for unfair and harmful discriminatory practices."

Fisher urged her colleagues to make North Carolina "the first of the Southern states to appropriately say, 'No this goes too far."

"Show the compassion and the ability to listen that was asked of us earlier today in our opening prayer and say no to this horrible step backward for North Carolina," she said.

Folwell, the speaker pro tem, argued the push for the bill was not about politics or opinions but about the power of the people.

"We're asking something currently in the statute book and allowing (North Carolina voters) to put it in (the state's constitution)."

Folwell argued that the amendment is not about defining relationships or even discussing what qualifies as a relationship.

"This vote today is about the relationship you have with the people who put you here," he said.

Folwell said the vote comes down to simply allowing the people to have control of their own constitution.

"Today, history is going to talk about the strength, the strength of this chamber, to realize that some decisions are simply bigger than we are and they belong to the people of North Carolina," he said.

After the measure passed a House committee earlier Monday, Democrats argued Republicans were sneakily trying to ram the bill through the Legislature.

North Carolina Rep. Joe Hackney, a Democrat, said he only received a copy of the bill right before the committee meeting. The bill has words that "carry great meaning," he said, yet there has been no debate or opportunity for public comment.

"This is no way to conduct constitutional business for the state of North Carolina," he said, saying such a serious issue deserved a fair hearing.

"It is not worthy of this Legislature," he said of the bill in its current form.

House Majority Leader Rep. Paul Stam, a Republican, told committee members he felt it was imperative they move to adopt the amendment.

"Things have changed in Iowa, California, New York, D.C. and Massachusetts," Stam said. "We have now states with significant populations that are allowing same-sex marriages to be legitimized and entered into. The question then becomes, what happens when they come to North Carolina seeking divorce or equitable distribution?"

North Carolina Rep. Paul Luebke, a Democrat, said while he understood that Republicans want to move on the issue, he felt it was "reprehensible," given such a high level of public interest, that the public would not have the chance to comment.

"Whether you (are) for this amendment or against it, it is a travesty we are not debating the measure" properly, Luebke said.

Luebke added that by pushing the proposed amendment along without the right process, the Legislature was wrongly moving to "specifically prohibit one group of citizens" without letting them have a say.

Calling it a step backward for the state, Luebke said if nothing else, debate should be considered because of the impact the move could have on the economy. He referred to major corporations that were founded by people from North Carolina who opposed the bill, including Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes, who wrote an open letter about his concerns regarding the bill.

WRAL: How we found out about N.C. bill debate

"People from these companies do not understand discrimination against gay and lesbian people," he said. "They would look at North Carolina and say, 'Why is North Carolina going down this direction?' "

"I think this a terrible mistake," he added.

Folwell said the amendment would have "zero impact on private employees and whether they choose to offer same-sex benefits to their employees."

CNN's Joe Sutton contributed to this report.

soundoff (756 Responses)
  1. Me

    Good to hear that they might take a stand against perversity...

    September 12, 2011 at 5:13 pm | Report abuse |
  2. The Pope

    Another bunch of mental midgets, right up there with Mississippi

    September 12, 2011 at 5:14 pm | Report abuse |
  3. M. Edward

    Like it's a surprise that kissing cousins of W Virginia's would consider something like this. Duh!

    September 12, 2011 at 5:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • He loves his relatives

      A cousin is probably all you can find to kiss... except my a$$, limpwrist.

      September 12, 2011 at 5:24 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Sean

    How can the Republicans have the nerve to say that they are "pushing the power back to the people" of the State, and then force-feed the amendment through without the opportunity for review and public debate. SHAME on the GOP and the Civil War part 2 they are trying to start. DOUBLE SHAME on so-called 'Christians' who ignore the intentions and spirit of this country's foundational principles, and pick and choose bits from the Bible that supports your own ignorant prejudice and desire to turn the USA into a repressive fundamentalist nation, like under Taliban rule. NOT in my country. NOT mine, ever.

    September 12, 2011 at 5:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • James

      TBF, they are trying to put it in the ballot... not pass it.

      September 12, 2011 at 5:28 pm | Report abuse |
  5. boogietime

    Good idea NC. They should all go hang out in SF or NYC anyways.

    September 12, 2011 at 5:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Callmeishmael

      Hmm...not sure what else to say in response to this but...You're an idiot kind of sums it up.

      September 12, 2011 at 5:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Michael E

      Aren't you late for your Clan meeting?

      September 12, 2011 at 5:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • horseyone

      With so many real problems, NC once again impresses with its narrow-minded, hate-filled, fundamentalist christian agenda...no different than the Taliban whom they love to hate. I feel sympathy for any intelligent people living in that state.

      September 12, 2011 at 5:39 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Ray

    As a gay man who just recently moved here, I find this reprehensible. For a state that was willing to split from it's "confederate" southern neighbor, I find it ironic that it would be a follower instead of standing up for what is right. I'm not looking for anything other than the ability to get benifits, file my taxes jointly, be ensured that in the event of a tragic illness I will be able to get into ICU for my partern of almost 10 years.

    We aren't looking to have children or force our lives on your children. Playing the stereotypes, not every African American Male is a criminal, not every Hispanic is an illegal immigrant, and not every gay man wants to molest children. Get a clue NC and stay out of my bedroom.

    September 12, 2011 at 5:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • BRESSON

      Its the Tea Party, friend. We just have to vote them out first chance we get...

      September 12, 2011 at 5:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jason

      I agree with you. This is soo backward. That is why that the elections outside of the presendential ones are very important as well. These tea party people are about going back in time to barbaric morale. We need to move forward and fight strong for equality. If not it could be realll bad!!

      September 12, 2011 at 5:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • everettreb

      "For a state that was willing to split from it's "confederate" southern neighbor,"

      Duh we were a Confederate state. We didn't split from our southern neighbor, we went with them.

      September 12, 2011 at 5:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • indie_rachael

      North Carolina and South Carolina were established by English charters. They were never to my knowledge a unified area and certainly did not split over the Civil War.

      That said, I agree the spirit of everything else in your post.

      I don't understand why anyone would want their government to have such power to intrude in people's lives. That's such a socialist thing to do. Certainly no democracy-loving people would vote for that much government intrusion on personal liberty!!

      September 12, 2011 at 5:53 pm | Report abuse |
  7. mightyfudge

    may the fetus you save from abortion be gay.

    September 12, 2011 at 5:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • indie_rachael

      AMEN!!

      September 12, 2011 at 5:54 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Progressive Veteran

    And the south shall continue to discriminate.

    September 12, 2011 at 5:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • KC

      "And the south shall continue to discriminate" Oh and the North does no such things? Your statement alone makes you a hypocrite.

      September 12, 2011 at 5:35 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Matt

    First the Indian's, then the black people, now the gay people. Land of the free...HA

    September 12, 2011 at 5:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • youreatard

      You strike me as an idiot

      September 12, 2011 at 5:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Andrew

      in response to youreatard:

      you're name alone makes you a ignorant politically incorrect idiot... go get some education

      September 12, 2011 at 5:56 pm | Report abuse |
  10. BRESSON

    Nice NC. Common thread with Mussolini and Hitler right there...

    September 12, 2011 at 5:25 pm | Report abuse |
  11. BW

    I'm glad President Lincoln was able to end slavery in this country without a vote from NC.

    September 12, 2011 at 5:27 pm | Report abuse |
  12. KRG

    Well, I glad you are reporting this because I was thinking of buying a vacation home there. I will buy elsewhere if the state votes to ban gay marraige. I will take my money to another state.

    September 12, 2011 at 5:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • ashley

      Thanks! We'll appreciate not knowing u even more

      September 12, 2011 at 8:34 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Anthony

    North Carolina has always been a more progressive state than its Southern neighbors. The GOP was out of the majority for a century in the state, and this is an example of why they should be voted out power again next year. Saying out of one side of your mouth that you want the government out of people's lives, then forcing through hateful legislation such as this is the apex of hypocrisy.

    September 12, 2011 at 5:30 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Bruno

    Let's just get one of these eventual court cases to the Supreme Court and settle this issue once and for all. I'm sick to death of hearing from all of you. Both sides are ridiculous, childish and closed-minded. You deserve each other.

    September 12, 2011 at 5:32 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Sheila

    In a time where so many people refuse to commit, where terms like baby-mama and baby-daddy had to be coined just to keep up with the failure to make a commitment, how we can says that one group who wishes to make a statement before friends,family and their personal belief system should be forbidden is ridiculous. I was happily married in a male/female marriage until my husband died – someone else making the same commitment with the same intentions can't take anything away from that.

    September 12, 2011 at 5:36 pm | Report abuse |
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