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. McPurp

    i dont care what they do, just LEAGALIZE THE PLANT!

    cheech/chong2012

    September 12, 2011 at 6:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • JJames

      Agreed.

      September 12, 2011 at 10:14 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Jaded

    You didn't get to vote on my hetero marriage. Why should I get to vote on anyone else's marriage. Marry who you love and good luck to you.

    September 12, 2011 at 6:27 pm | Report abuse |
  3. mightyfudge

    Jesus hates gays. He told me so while I was "comforting" a young choirboy in the rectory basement. (HE likes to watch!)

    September 12, 2011 at 6:29 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Bob

    What two consenting adults do in the privacy of their bedroom is their business.. Just think of all the fees NC can take in for Marriage Lis. and the lawyers will love it for all the divorces..

    September 12, 2011 at 6:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • ashley

      Bob the problem with let be and let live, is the following sacrifices people will endure. As a christian who moved to CA, I must say I would home school my children before letting them attend here. Thanks to the newly mandated law to put gays in school text books. Being gay is not right in my religion and it is not something I feel my children should have stuck down their throat... Just like antichrist parents didn't want God stuck down their childrens throat. With all that said I don't hate or judge anyone for being gay! that is ultimately between them and god, but it does not change my religion or my holy book.

      September 12, 2011 at 6:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • N00bs

      so what does that have to do w/ making gay marrige illegal?

      September 12, 2011 at 7:07 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Jim

    Another case of Republicans and non tolerant Christians wanting rights and freedoms for themselves while wanting to deny rights and freedoms to other Americans. Is Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness only for the few or is it for all?

    September 12, 2011 at 6:33 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Norm

    So much for limited government. Why is it that conservatives only love big government when they're using it to shove their fake morality down everyone elses throats? Teabaggers just love their big government when it lets them force everyone else to live for their sake.

    September 12, 2011 at 6:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dooku22

      dont you just LOVE it when people get all upset and NOSE In and ban and talk cra* about stuff that will that will most likly has NOTHING to do with THEIR loves....poor gay people cant even vote for limited government...they should have a thrd party for non-morons

      September 12, 2011 at 6:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • nwatcher

      And the gay community is not using government to push their agenda on a populace that doesn't want it...pot/kettle action here

      September 12, 2011 at 7:00 pm | Report abuse |
  7. shawn of raytown

    isn't it ironic though, how so many flamingly obvious gays come from the rural, religious background/ am I the only one noticing this? Anyway, here in Missouri the hayseeds passed their christian nation agenda a few years ago but I can't say that our quality of life has improved. If you're forthright and open about who you are, you're who I want – NEED – in my community. PRAY for the people calling themselves Christians, they need your prayers! We must give them the sympathy that they can't find in themselves.

    September 12, 2011 at 6:39 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Gail D....

    ...Is a mighty troll. And as with all trolls, ignoring it is the best thing to do.

    September 12, 2011 at 6:49 pm | Report abuse |
  9. nwatcher

    If gays are discriminated against because they can't get married, I'm being discriminated against because the NBA won't let me play professional basketball. Forget the fact that I'm too old, too slow, can't jump without pain, have a mediocre jump shot and I'm a little on the short side. I REALLY WANT TO PLAY!!! It is just plain wrong and somebody should come to my rescue here.

    Truth is, I don't think the NBA should change the rules to protect me from something I'm unqualified for in the first place. If gays want to get married, they're barking up the wrong tree – find another game that suits you but leave marriage alone. NASCAR won't let me drive my old Fiesta at Daytona....get it? Probably not....

    September 12, 2011 at 6:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • midwestrail

      as the long tradition of straw man arguments spins happily into a new decade.

      September 12, 2011 at 7:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • total non sense

      you are lucky there is no discrimination agains idiots, you will be on top of the list. now you should advoid using a computer, it is much too complicated for your single digit IQ.

      September 12, 2011 at 7:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • mensarino

      You obviously lack a formal education.Your post is full of logical fallacies and a misunderstanding of basic rights.
      Get an education before embarrassing yourself with such dreck.

      September 12, 2011 at 7:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • raymond

      Silly.... Perhaps if you spent less of your time being a bigot, perhaps you would have made that nba team...

      September 12, 2011 at 7:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rev. Dr. Ben Cable

      nwatcher – Outside of state laws, how are Gay and Lesbian people "unqualified" for marriage, as you stated you are unqualified for the “NBA”? I understand what you are trying to do with the comparisons but this is not a valid argument for debate.

      I am not sure of your physical condition, but many communities have sports teams of all ages and I suggest you explore these; if this is your dream. Members of the NBA have “come out” as gay. I support your dream if you are gay or straight. – God Bless

      September 12, 2011 at 7:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • ashley

      Nwatcher – Love it!!

      September 12, 2011 at 8:06 pm | Report abuse |
  10. pat

    If you vote for a Republican, you will see worse and worse and the Religious right takes over politics. This is disgusting as was the passing of the restriction of abortion. That should be between a woman and her doctor. The first teen that is too afraid to tell her doctor/parents that goes to a backstreet abortionist and dies is on the Legislator. Where are these narrow minded ignorants coming from? I sure didn't and won't vote for any Republican with the RR dictating policy. Not that all Dems are angels...just saying that the RR are attempting to take over..and so far here are doing it. Shame on them!

    September 12, 2011 at 7:07 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Digital scales

    It's much easier to weigh same-genders, even coupled, because there are so few, than to weigh the avg. N. Carolinian, who is 35 lbs. overweight.

    September 12, 2011 at 7:10 pm | Report abuse |
  12. GOP on the prowl

    We must pass the most amendments to the book of the land, that we can. We libertarian, tea-party, republicans, are changing our names but not our face, we are wealthy prejudice, KKKers, and haters of gays and middle class,and will hide behind the bible and tell everyone we don't want to change a thing.(Except those we are willing to pass judgment on)We are lovers of the earth as long as we can trash and pillage her for oil and money. We go to ladies of the night and gay men for comfort and love but cannot tell the truth. We are your leaders and we are the people who love you the mostess. We are the chosen ones who love the rich.

    September 12, 2011 at 7:12 pm | Report abuse |
  13. RSE in Jax

    I LOVE the term "Compassionate Conservative." Look at all of the compassion we left in Iraq and all the compassion that was shown back in August 2005 when poor people were drowning in their living rooms. I'd hate to see if we, as a nation, lost our compassion; horrible things would come.

    September 12, 2011 at 7:19 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Ben

    Methinks Mr. Folwell is hiding something...

    September 12, 2011 at 7:22 pm | Report abuse |
  15. neguys

    its inevitable that there will be gay marriage across the USA. focus on more important issues and let us live our lives..

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