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. mightyfudge

    the biggest mistake this country ever made was winning the civil war. we should have let all those Bronze Age southerners go 150 years ago.... sigh. actually amazed that the rest of the country has acheived so much despite dragging their dead weight through a century and a half of progress...

    September 12, 2011 at 5:38 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Atul Chaudhary

    Good for NC. At least some people have sanity to deal with this issue. To all Bible haters, nature teaches us a lot. Even animals know better than us. They know which is our front and which is our back. To all gender confused friends, please don't label us backwards because we want to do something right.

    September 12, 2011 at 5:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tad

      To all you people preaching from the Bible as your guide, YOU do not know the Bible at all...you were taught in church by prejudiced, unprincipaled, un-Christian leaders...Jesus never condemned anyone and preached to judge yourself before you judge others and HE never threw the first stone...you are the same hipocrits that cursified Jesus over 2000 years ago. Take a look into your own soul, your own life and Judge yourself before casting that first stone...I would like someone and I would put this out there to the Pope, to show me in the Bible where one sin is worse than another...I never saw a list by the number....I am totally sure if I go to Hell many of you will be there or will be joining me as well. Supposed you died today and St Peter met you at the Golden Gate and pulled out his book of your life and said: Do you remember when Jesus said not to judge others....that is God's job?

      September 12, 2011 at 5:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • mightyfudge

      Tad – Huge leap assuming any southern, bible nut Republican can read in the first place.

      September 12, 2011 at 6:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • ashley

      Tad, you seem to be an unfortunate lost soul. I believe the only way to truely know our god, and bible is to read it for yourself because there are so many fake prophecies. Standing up for what is right, protecting our families is nothing near judging people. and as for calling gay a sin that is calling a duck a duck,... and no sin is greater than another, and only a very select few will make it into heaven... very true

      September 12, 2011 at 8:41 pm | Report abuse |
  3. everettreb

    If this passes I will be sure to vote in November and vote yes to the ban.
    To all of you so called guys (I'll use that word so my comment won't get deleted) I have news for you this will pass at the polls.

    September 12, 2011 at 5:40 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Elaine

    The march to gay rights has always been about two consenting adults. The Republican fascination with animals in the bedroom is weird.

    September 12, 2011 at 5:40 pm | Report abuse |
  5. TricknWV

    Does North Carolina REALLY want to be know as a bunch of haters? I mean, hasn't that state and it's TOBACCO killed enough Americans already? Hate and bigotry are just as lethal.

    September 12, 2011 at 5:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • ashley

      Hmm to care what other people think... or to care what God thinks... hmm I'ma go with God!! .. and don't confuse hate with knowing right/wrong.

      September 12, 2011 at 8:42 pm | Report abuse |
  6. JLA615

    The Republicans are worried about losing NC in 2012 as they did in 2008 so this is their way of getting social conservatives to the polls. It has nothing to do with "defending marriage."

    September 12, 2011 at 5:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Elaine

      Yes it does! It is killing two birds with one stone. Why miss an opportunity to further stomp on this historically beat down subgroup of Americans?

      September 12, 2011 at 5:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chip

      How will Republicans get elected once the gays obtain all of their promised rights in this country? How will their campaigns work?

      September 12, 2011 at 6:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • ashley

      This is probally the best way to get their attention, although there is so much more to focus on.. being 'legally' married for tax benefits is hillarious when you glance at the real issues of America.

      September 12, 2011 at 6:22 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Erik

    This is just a blatantly transparent ploy by Republicans to draw all the nutty religious bigots out to the polls. Unfortunately, it will probably work. I expect to see a lot of this going on all over the country. As usual, the Republicans have no idea how to solve real problems so they just play to people's fears in order to get elected.

    September 12, 2011 at 5:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Elaine

      Thanks to Karl Rove, it worked like a charm in 2004 for George W. Bush.

      September 12, 2011 at 5:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • HarvardLaw92

      LOL, they are trying to put the measure to a vote on the same day as the Republican primary in NC. This couldn't be more transparently partisan and aimed at increasing conservative turnout if they'd tried.

      September 12, 2011 at 5:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • ashley

      Is everyone who doesn't approve of being gay a 'nutty religious bigot?" Just curious how you stereo type

      September 12, 2011 at 6:20 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Billy Zzz

    North Carolina – we make Texas look like the enlightened state!

    September 12, 2011 at 5:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chip

      Do you think the nation will vote for Perry as president when his state has the most uninsured people in the country?

      September 12, 2011 at 6:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • M

      @Chip: You assume that the average voter even knows anything about that.

      September 12, 2011 at 6:28 pm | Report abuse |
  9. BobNAlabama

    As an Alabamian, I think it's sad that the South is still so backward, and it will remain so until this generation is dead and gone.

    September 12, 2011 at 5:53 pm | Report abuse |
  10. HarvardLaw92

    Those who believe they are aware of churches engaging in political activity in support of this amendment in violation of their 501(c)(3) tax exemption, please report the behavior using IRS Form 3949A. The form is available on the web and may be filed anonymously if you prefer.

    September 12, 2011 at 5:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gay

      Keep up the good work HarvardLaw92.

      September 12, 2011 at 6:12 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Ed Becker

    Go N.C.. You passed the IQ test. Not like the idiots in NY!

    September 12, 2011 at 5:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • ashley

      No unfortunately NC's IQ can't be established until they openly vote their beliefs that marriage is for man and woman. Then they can get back to normal! As in BBQ's, fishing, fourwheelin, farmin, goin to church, lovin the life God gave them.. and generally keeping to themselves

      September 12, 2011 at 6:26 pm | Report abuse |
  12. ModernEarthling

    Jesus' agenda: Feed the Hungry, Clothe the naked, Shelter the homeless, love your neighbor, you reap what you sow. Republican's agenda: Feed no one, Clothe no one, Shelter no one. Hate gays, people of other religions and atheists, hate immigrants; and everyone's out for themselves. I like Jesus' agenda better. The Republicans are not pro-christ, they are anti-christ; the Anti-Christ party.

    September 12, 2011 at 6:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • nwatcher

      ..and let me tell you – the gay community is all over that one – all 35 of them.

      September 12, 2011 at 6:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Youre Right

      Kudos to you! But that is intuitively obvious to the most casual observer.

      September 12, 2011 at 11:18 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Armin

    Be straight, it pays! Sieg Heil, Hail AIDS!

    September 12, 2011 at 6:03 pm | Report abuse |
  14. ashley

    Leave NC and their values alone! I'm praying NC won't be headed down the same road CA is on... and I have FAITH the good old folks will vote out immoral marriage!

    September 12, 2011 at 6:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • OY

      So basically, this god who you pray to hates people. Nice god you have there. Have fun with that...I'm sure the invisible man in the sky will....do something about it...or something....
      I love how people are so wrapped up in the "holiness" of marriage, when it's obvious they haven't a clue the true history of marriage. Marriage was all about ownership. The woman goes from her dad (who owned her) to her husband (who then took over the "property"). There was never anything "holy" or "romantic" about marriage in the past. I'm trying to figure out how two people committing to be true to each other forever could be "immoral".....

      September 12, 2011 at 6:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • ashley

      Where do you find the word hate? God does not hate sinners. God hates sin,. As for ownership i would not consider it that but i completely agree to obeying and supporting my husband, and he is the leader of our home. That is my personal choice, if you are gay that is your personal choice. Only you will be there on judgement day, not I nor dick and harry. But being gay is not normal, or prosperous. How can you argue that?

      September 12, 2011 at 6:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • N00bs

      By simple logic....let god judge others, as his servant, you are in no position to judge others...oh did that just hurt your arrogance?

      September 12, 2011 at 7:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • ashley

      I haven't judged anyone hun... I've only stood up for what I believe is right, and that is a marriage between man and woman... and that is what my bible tells me.

      September 12, 2011 at 8:29 pm | Report abuse |
  15. J

    I live in NC and I was talking to one of my professors about this move. Her first response was that it would definitely hurt the NC economy a bit considering that the Research Triangle Park, which is often compared to Silicon Valley, is comprised of several progressive companies who have anti-discrimination policies. If some of their own employees feel uncomfortable transferring to a branch here, how big of a loss will this be to the state? It's one thing to not approve gay marriage, but it's certainly another thing to completely ban the prospect of it happening altogether. The state senate and congress have been unable to do this for over 100 years, considering it has always had a democratic majority, so I guess they are taking the chance to leave some kind of mark to receive more votes in the future and to turn the state that was actually becoming a bit more progressive by voting for Obama three years ago, back into ultra Conservatives once again.

    September 12, 2011 at 6:19 pm | Report abuse |
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