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. jdub

    Please ban this disgusting act of abnormalness

    September 12, 2011 at 7:23 pm | Report abuse |
  2. buddy

    Why ban something that's already banned? This is just GOP grandstanding nonsense.

    September 12, 2011 at 7:25 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Bristoll21

    N.C. needs to worry more about how ridiculously underprepared to face the world and the job needs of the 21st century the average "high school graduate", and I use the term loosely, coming out of their schools happens to be.

    They're actually behind W. VA in terms of some key educational metrics. That's West Virginia, people. If you're below *that* line, you're probably not more than 1/2 a shake of a lamb's tail from "Darwining" yourself and perhaps those around you anyway...

    Perhaps their view on education spending and quality is all that much more understandable, now that I look at it that way...

    September 12, 2011 at 7:32 pm | Report abuse |
  4. total non sense

    Because the only arguments for the ban are purely based on religion, they should be instantly rejected and declared invalid and who ever is behind it should be commited NOW, as they suffer some serious mental illness.

    September 12, 2011 at 7:42 pm | Report abuse |
  5. ashley

    Hey elaine awesome idea! Don't forget to burn all your money when that happens! You know all the green stuff floating around that says In God We Trust

    September 12, 2011 at 7:48 pm | Report abuse |
  6. jdub

    disgusting

    September 12, 2011 at 7:50 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Melinda

    Two points 1. the religious right is making their last gasp effort to incorporate discrimination into state/Federal consitutions since they know as the older more conservative part of the population passes on, within the next 10-20 years this will be a non-issue since the majority of the under 25 generation has no problem with gay relationships. 2. this "let's let the people decide" move is part of the overall Republican strategy to get rid of Obama in 2012 by getting their base out using wedge issues coupled with reducing the turnout of Democratic voters by passing the restrictive "voter ID" laws and tightening early voting windows as 37 states have done .

    September 12, 2011 at 7:58 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Fozman

    Whacko right wingers are so afraid of change, they are so afraid of a world where two women or two men can go to a courthouse and get married. They are so afraid of change. Guess what, changes is coming and legislation won't stop it.

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

      Youve got to be kidding?? There is no way that to anyone this is normal. You should seriously get yourself checked out. Im so sick of this "rainbow parade" garbage. Grow up and get real

      September 12, 2011 at 8:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • FormerMarineSgt

      jdub – I think it is you who needs to 'get real'.

      Just because you can't stand something doesn't mean it's not valid.

      You might detest brussel sprouts (I sure can't stand 'em) – but that doesn't make them a non-valid food item for someone else.

      The same goes with gay, religious, non-religious, straight and so on. If you don't like it – at least let others have a chance. THAT is the American way – not the closed minded 'my way or the highway' style you are showing.

      September 12, 2011 at 8:53 pm | Report abuse |
  9. @ashley......

    Marriage and Holy Matrimony are two different things, ma'am. One is not mutually exclusive with another.
    Not to mention a separation of CHURCH and STATE....let gay marriage be a civil thing-or did you forget how to be civil in your narrow-minded mentality?

    September 12, 2011 at 8:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • ashley

      There is no such thing as "separation of Church and State". What you are referring to is a total misrepresentation of a letter that a founding father wrote to a church. It has been taken completely out of context for the purpose of promoting progressive, liberal, and atheist agendas. And you surely don't know me to say I am narrow minded.. I am FAR from, but my biggest job is protecting my children, and this is nonsense that shouldn't even be a factor!

      September 12, 2011 at 8:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • FormerMarineSgt

      Ashley – what are you protecting your children from in this instance?

      From Predatory pedophiles? Statistics show that most pedophiles are straight, not gay.

      From finding out that 'gays' exist? Are you sure it's not YOUR discomfort that you are protecting here? Tell them age appropriate details and they'll be just fine. It's no different telling them about gay love than it is telling them about straight love – you give them age appropriate information and it's done.

      September 12, 2011 at 8:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • ashley

      Pedophiles are my main target in life, so that my girls will never worry about and I never even thought of another woman harming them but also that wont happen b/c i am an overprotective stay at home mother... Gays will exist for the rest of time, but a society making it socialy acceptable is something i will fight against. Especially when CA just rushed into the mandating gays in school books.. To me, that just showed me it will continue further and further

      September 12, 2011 at 10:41 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Sue

    In North Carolina, first cousins can marry, but two men can't.

    Seriously.

    September 12, 2011 at 8:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • PHIL

      Two males can marry legally in North Carolina legally, but one of them must be a sheep,,

      September 12, 2011 at 8:24 pm | Report abuse |
  11. @ashley

    Sue says first cousins can marry. How can you God and your Bible condone incest?

    September 12, 2011 at 8:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • ashley

      hey it happened! may still be happening! but guess what? cousins can still make a baby, so therefor prosper and be fruitful..... and uhm just so u know when cousins married in the bible, that time of day you have to consideer the population.. even if there were a million humans, they didnt all live in israel

      September 12, 2011 at 8:21 pm | Report abuse |
  12. @ashley

    Oops, meant first cousins can marry in NC.

    September 12, 2011 at 8:19 pm | Report abuse |
  13. @ashley

    No, I'm not, but you ARE cherry-picking points out of the Bible to support your claim.

    September 12, 2011 at 8:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • ashley

      Uhm actually I have a big problem with people picking parts of the bible to use to their advantage so I'm not sure how you came up with that idea...

      September 12, 2011 at 10:43 pm | Report abuse |
  14. PHIL

    Don,t these self righteous pompous do gooders have some real problems to focus on, like Teen age pregnancy, Jobs, or contagious epidemic stupidity??

    September 12, 2011 at 8:22 pm | Report abuse |
  15. raymond

    Everyone has a damn opinion, but never a solution. Iowa came up with a solution... Legalization. " Is this heaven? No it's Iowa."

    September 12, 2011 at 8:22 pm | Report abuse |
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