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. styymy

    ANOTHER state putting focus on the WRONG issues in bad economic times!

    September 12, 2011 at 3:45 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Ted Ryder

    It's not most North Carolinians yall, especially those living in the Triangle. It's the republican politicians employing WWF tactics that work.

    September 12, 2011 at 3:45 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Sean Russell

    It would be best for everybody- if all these states- that seems to have a problem with everybody else- immigrants, gays, muslims, atheists- just build a big wall around your state- and we'll gladly stay out if you keep all your ignorant, inbred masses inside. They don't want out anyway- where they'd actually have to interact with people that are different than them and sound different or look different. God forbid. Where they would be exposed to ideas that aren't (gasp!) in the bible. Just stay behind your walls and we'll keep going to the future, and you can all pretend it's still the 1840's. That sound like a good deal?

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

      What's up with all this in-bred talk? It's NC not WV.

      September 12, 2011 at 4:04 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Marcus

    Making bigotry a state law? Gotta love NC! :-S

    September 12, 2011 at 3:45 pm | Report abuse |
  5. DemFL- GAY AND HAPPY

    Good for them, that should make the nut baskets happy with their "Family Values". But you'll loose the race in the end for being so Bigoted. All good deeds are always answered aren't they??

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

      No the only way to know who loses the race in the end, is on judgement day

      September 12, 2011 at 9:57 pm | Report abuse |
  6. NC Moderate

    What a total waste of time. I love living in NC but this 'red neck' mentality that much of our Republican lawmakers have is something I dislike about living here.

    I am straight but would not mind if gays wanted to marry one another if they chose. How does their marriage impact me or others? It doesn't.

    .

    September 12, 2011 at 3:45 pm | Report abuse |
  7. blah9999

    Don't they have better things to do...like improve their education system?

    September 12, 2011 at 3:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • J

      Nope. The republicans have already cut spending there. They have plenty of time for this.

      September 12, 2011 at 9:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • ashley

      Are you joking??? You must not know about NCs educational facilities... sure our schools are better than yours!

      September 12, 2011 at 9:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Adam

      ashley – surely you're kidding. My parents are both educators, as well as many of my friends. NC schools are terrible and are consistently ranked low nationally. Your poor use of grammar and punctuation, as well as your ignorant viewpoints, are a clear testament to this fact.

      September 13, 2011 at 1:40 am | Report abuse |
  8. Freddy

    I heard that part of this amendment is to make the theme from Deliverance the state song.

    September 12, 2011 at 3:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ted Ryder

      LMFAO! I can tell you that the mosquitoes here are so big they are the state bird.

      September 12, 2011 at 3:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • steve

      I went to a family Christmas Day party one year in North Carolina. Everyone got a gun for Christmas. The grandmother got a gun, the teenagers got guns and the babies got toy guns. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. Afterward there was a lot of talk about religion.

      September 12, 2011 at 3:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • David

      Republicans have yet to see their gay and lesbian brothers and sisters as human. No respect is given to their relationships which give meaning to life. They would gladly deny to some the things they hold the dearest to their heart which is the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness. These people are on a jihad against red-blooded Americans with a religious text as their weapon.

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

      If you can't beat them down, just cut off their avenues of dissent. This is not the way America is supposed to work, but it is the modus operandi for Christians.

      September 12, 2011 at 4:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Samantha

      It is disheartening to hear Republicans belch about the gay agenda as if Republicans had no agenda of their own. And what a tacky agenda it is.

      September 12, 2011 at 4:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Anderson

      Majorities are wonderful! You can sh_t all over entire subgroups of fellow Americans.

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

      Shouldn't they concentrate on unwed Mothers, teenage pregnancy, drug addiction, overworked and underfunded Child Protective Services, dead beat dads, prison parents and the high incarceration rates of black men within their state?

      September 12, 2011 at 4:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Shannon

      I can just hear them now saying, "How can we be more like Saudi Arabia, Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia and Yemen? Answer: Start a jihad against American gay people and stop their march to freedom in its tracks.

      September 12, 2011 at 4:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cindy

      Do Republicans ever look inward at themselves or do they just have a myopic vision to continue to thwart the lives of gay Americans? They are as eat up with religion as Iran. They don't want Iran to have a theocracy, but are happy to have one in America.

      September 12, 2011 at 4:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Frank

      People of the United States of America,President Obama and Freddy.
      Since I have been to NC & SC youlre right,I can hear DA DA DAAA DA DAAA DA DA DA DA now.Just to really make sure ,they should repass the laws if they do exist that you can not marry your mother.father,sister,brother.1,2,3rd or 4th cousin or anythhg that has 4 legs.

      September 12, 2011 at 4:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Karen

      The debate that it would hurt the economy of North Carolina is irrelevant. As much as they would like you to think so, Christians don't have a monopoly on love. Life is not just for Christians. Gays should have the same chances at happiness, especially in this country. It is awfully cynical of them to cut gays down at the knees and call it democracy at work.

      September 12, 2011 at 4:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dogma

      Will Christian Republicans ever learn to keep their noses out of other peoples bedrooms? What is the fascination?

      September 12, 2011 at 4:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lilly

      So many Republicans just ignore the stranglehold that their party has on our gay minority. If they think the party will fatten their wallets, then screw everyone else.

      September 12, 2011 at 4:46 pm | Report abuse |
  9. jay

    All republicans ever do is ban people they don't like and take/cut things from poor. NEVER DO THEY HELP PEOLPE AND UPLIFT THEM IN TIMES OF NEED. the republican base will continue to get smaller and smaller the more they keep placing these bans on human beings. Talk about government invading Americans private life - republicans invade people private life all the time.

    September 12, 2011 at 3:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Elaine

      The promise of everlasting life is not enough for me to stomp on the lives of my neighbors during this life. This is the life we should be focusing on first. No amount of church could ever make me spew disdain for this minority of American citizens.

      September 12, 2011 at 4:44 pm | Report abuse |
  10. chad

    so much for small government

    September 12, 2011 at 3:49 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Hans

    Everyone, let's take it easy on Joe. He is still dealing with his feelings and does not understand how he could be so attracted to his friend Mike in the football locker room back in high school, and his co-worker Jeff just last week. He is is only lashing out in this aggressive manner because he is not quite capable of expressing himself in a grown-up way, and his extreme lack of education has put him at a disadvantage.

    September 12, 2011 at 3:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • GAYS R NOT WANTED N DA SOUTH

      GOD DIDNT WANT MAN LUSTING AFTER MAN'S BOOTYHOLES! JUST NASTY AND I MEAN JUST PLAN NASTY

      September 12, 2011 at 6:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Name*mike c

      the same can be said of your siblings.

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

    they used to ban interracial marriage as well. conservatives are once again on the losing side of history.

    September 12, 2011 at 3:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kenneth

      You hit that target right in the center.

      September 12, 2011 at 3:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • WHS

      And they always will be on the wrong side of history. Progressives are the gas and Conservatives are the breaks. We will always move forward it just depends on how much Conservatives can slow us down. Why would anyone want to be a conservative if they, almost by definition, perpetual losers?

      September 12, 2011 at 3:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • x-rev

      When are they going to ban incest in this state?

      September 12, 2011 at 4:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dana

      This is why they won't let go of the gay issue. They don't want to be proven wrong once again. They don't eat crow well and they are experts at saving face. Their blind faith is detrimental to the life of their gay brothers and sisters.

      September 12, 2011 at 4:30 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Kenneth

    And yet another reason not to go to North Carolina. Too bad, pretty country around there. Can't stand ignorant hillbillies, though.

    September 12, 2011 at 3:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ohnoes

      Wow! Thanks for stereotyping everyone in the state, but then again I have no idea what you just said since I can't read either...Well I assume that's what you are thinking anyway.

      September 12, 2011 at 4:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tad

      If the shoe fits. Oh, that's right, they don't wear shoes.

      September 12, 2011 at 4:16 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Xeres

    If marriage is in the eyes of God why do religious people not object to Athiests getting married?

    September 12, 2011 at 3:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • blah9999

      Shockingly logical question

      September 12, 2011 at 3:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • ashley

      Atheist can still mupltiply and be fruitful and hopefully will find their way to God... And God hates sin, not sinners

      September 12, 2011 at 9:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Justme1991

      Then if the goal is to be fruitful and multiply why can those who are infertile get married?

      September 15, 2011 at 4:09 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Mary

    It's people (and I use that word loosely) like you that the world thinks Americans are stupid. Thank you for that, now go crawl back in your hick hole. Also, at least learn to spell you idiot.

    September 12, 2011 at 3:52 pm | Report abuse |
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