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. Ted Ryder

    I am an independent that lives in NC. I will not vote for a single republican in the next election because of this. Our unemployment is at 10 percent and they want to rile up their base on a divisive issue such as this? Basically if they don't get results they return to this tactic. I'm so sick of living in with a World Wrestling Federation style of government. Ooh, I really had the repubs. Ooh I really hate the democrats. I wonder who will win the match. They do this crap because it gets votes meanwhile we all suffer from bad governance.

    September 12, 2011 at 3:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Teddy

      You think you suffer. Look at what is happening to gay families in this state. These types of laws only set the tone for more volatile thinking among the ranks of the ignorant and misinformed.

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

      It's okay – we'll win without you....

      September 13, 2011 at 4:05 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Damian

    Instead of focusing energy on something positive like hunger, unemployed parents(straight or gay) and children's causes they spend time on this BS !

    September 12, 2011 at 3:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dean

      Jobs talk doesn't bring out the 80 and over crowd.

      September 12, 2011 at 5:57 pm | Report abuse |
  3. betatrash

    Actually, the issue i see here is: if you put a primarily conservative issue on the ballot, it might cause a higher conservative turnout for the election (or more leaning towards GOP), in effect guaranteeing a GOP win.... in all seriousness. This should _NEVER_ be allowed to happen.

    September 12, 2011 at 3:32 pm | Report abuse |
  4. j

    PLEASE BAN IT!!!

    September 12, 2011 at 3:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • apeman

      no one finds you attractive, don't worry....no one wants to marry you....

      September 12, 2011 at 3:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dean

      Your children will just go to New York or Iowa to marry.

      September 12, 2011 at 5:59 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Draino

    That's right! I live in Kansas, where we passed the same ban a few years ago, and we should at least have another state in the union be as ignorant as bassackward thinking as we are! Why should we be the only ones mocked by the rest of the world? Way to go NC!

    September 12, 2011 at 3:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dean

      Isn't this where the monkey trials were held?

      September 12, 2011 at 6:00 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Gail D

    I AM moving to NC !!!! Good for them. That ain't marriage anyway. Gays represent approx 1.5% of the population – clearly not a MAJORITY and THIS IS A DEMOCRACY !!!

    September 12, 2011 at 3:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • WA0711

      The MAJORITY once burned women for witchcraft, owned slaves have wiped out entire races. Thing with the MAJORITY is that the MAJORTIY is usually WRONG.

      September 12, 2011 at 3:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sean Russell

      This is a republic- with checks and balances designed to ensure that that majority does not trample over the rights of the minority.

      September 12, 2011 at 3:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • apeman

      You're useless....go ahead and check yourself out.....it's a wonder you can even read....

      September 12, 2011 at 3:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • really

      That's right Gail! Minorities should have no voice!

      September 12, 2011 at 3:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Johnny

      Please do move to NC! You won't be missed by the rest of us.

      September 12, 2011 at 3:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Michigan_Joe

      I don't know where you got your info, but the gay population is one hell of larger percentage than your quoted 1.5%. The real figure is more than 10%. You can get facts from real sources, or fictional information from Fox.

      September 12, 2011 at 4:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Michigan_Joe

      Yea protest much too much. Are you a rejected drag queen?

      September 12, 2011 at 4:12 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Sam

    I love calling NC home!

    September 12, 2011 at 3:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sam

      And the whole rest of the world is so happy that you are there and not near us.

      September 12, 2011 at 6:02 pm | Report abuse |
  8. saywhat

    is that right, Mr. Hot Shot? why don;t you say this in front of a bunch of gay men... before you know it, we will have you walking the streets in some high heels and plenty of make up, you hillybilly.

    September 12, 2011 at 3:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bristoll21

      Not a comment on your ability to kick a$$ or masculinity or anything, but do I detect a hint of sadistic pleasure in that comment?

      September 12, 2011 at 7:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • mikefarris

      just another example of gays showing they want to push there life style on others it is sinful behavior and would you want all people to legally force there sins on you think about it !

      October 7, 2011 at 9:41 am | Report abuse |
  9. Karen

    Why should anyone be conerned with who marries who? Is this another attempt to keep gay people from being happy? Such a stupid waste of time. Love and committment is a wonderful thing. I don't care WHO it's between as long as they are consenting adults. The thought of entertaining this as an issue at any legislative level burns me up. How about, instead, you concern yourselves with such real concerns as our horrible public schools, our healthcare system in which the US is #31 in line for best birth survival rates (yes, really!), jobs, or when we will get our tax dollars back from all those banking crooks. Leave people in love alone. If you're that bothered, maybe you should get some of your own.

    September 12, 2011 at 3:34 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Mardeen

    Sounds like hate to me. It also sounds very familiar coming from the South.

    September 12, 2011 at 3:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bible Clown

      NC has been a rich state for too long. It's about time they scared away all the tourists and investors and went back to being poor. Go for it, North Carolina!

      September 12, 2011 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • gremlinus

      Yeah, because there are no bigots anywhere else in the US. No other states have race riots or bans on gay marriage or try to keep mosques from being built in their neighborhoods. Yep it's all in the South. Not in CA or MI or NY or any of those other places in the US, all of the stories about them were made up.
      Bigotry is unfortunately everywhere. I particularly find the type of bigotry where someone decides to classify an entire region (they have probably never been to) as being a certain way annoying.

      September 12, 2011 at 4:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • KC

      I guess it would be a sin to mention the North and the Irish immigration.

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

      Have none of you actually READ the article?!? Gay marriage is currently banned in NC. No citizen voted on this what-so-ever and it was done under the table decades ago. This will be a VOTE to LEGALIZE gay marriage, NOT make it illegal. This is a step in the right direction. Don't like it anti-gay marriage supporters? THEN GET OUT OF THIS COUNTRY. Go to freakin Canada where you belong with your cold cold hearts.

      September 12, 2011 at 5:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Elaine

      It has little to do with the South in general and everything in the world to do with Christian Republicans.

      September 12, 2011 at 5:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • justnasty

      stay away from the south, we dont cotton your type down herea

      September 12, 2011 at 6:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Zebula

      Way to enter the 18th century, North Carolina! We'll be waiting for you here in the 21st....

      September 12, 2011 at 6:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mack

      Since THIRTY states have such a ban, a whopping majority of the nation's states, your "south" bashing rings hollow.

      September 13, 2011 at 4:05 pm | Report abuse |
  11. rlcommenter

    Why did gay marriage become a reality in the first place?? It's not a "right".. It's a made up "spousal benefit" from the Government created by a strong political lobby...

    September 12, 2011 at 3:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • really

      Which harms the lives of straight people so much we need to BAN it!

      September 12, 2011 at 3:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sam

      It became a reality because a new generation of gays built upon the civil and human rights work of the previous generations and dared to live the American dream.

      September 12, 2011 at 6:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • ashley

      It's totally for the paperwork. It's not like gay people are being married for a holy matrimony, to not commit fornication, to start a family(naturally)... It's almost a mock of marriage

      September 12, 2011 at 7:08 pm | Report abuse |
  12. apeman

    conservatives have to realize that we are an economic force and we're everywhere.....the conservative few deciding what they think is best for the populace without any discussion or consent from the people....government of the people, by the people and for the people.......yeah right! North Carolina you must be so proud of your ignorance...

    September 12, 2011 at 3:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gail D

      Ooooo ! Economic force ! Wow – might as well, can't be a moral one
      Got some news for you – you ain't the only EEE CO NOM IK force,

      September 12, 2011 at 4:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dal

      Gail, run along before you're late for your Klan meeting.

      September 12, 2011 at 4:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Church of Suicidal

      Forgive Gail – her hood's on a little tight.

      September 12, 2011 at 4:58 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Eistean

    See NC? This is why we can't have nice things...

    September 12, 2011 at 3:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gail D

      Right ! RIT

      September 12, 2011 at 4:23 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Lana

    Thank goodness not all people in NC are like you, Joe. If they were, I'd move. Intolerance and hatefulness like you have are what makes people believe that North Carolina is a state full of backwoods toothless idiots.

    September 12, 2011 at 3:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • anon

      I think you touched on a good point. Most Americans are conservatives who do not approve of gay marriage or overall liberal ways. We have been more divided as a country then ever, and I think the only way to solve it is to in the end simply split the country down the middle. Liberals move to one part of the country, and conservatives seceed and start their own country

      If and when that happens, then liberal america will be just like Europe, and conservative America will look like something that resembles 1950's America. (Except they'll keep the equal rights for women and minorities.)

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

      Now you know we all wear suspenders, chew tobaccy, and go cow tipping every weekend.

      September 12, 2011 at 10:49 pm | Report abuse |
  15. ProperVillain

    Yet another state that is still in the dark ages...

    September 12, 2011 at 3:37 pm | Report abuse |
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