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. DB

    It's the same old trick Republicans have been using for over a decade, and apparently the Democrats still don't have a clue how to stop it. Putting this on the ballot has NOTHING TO DO WITH GAY MARRIAGE. The Republicans simply know that people who hate gays usually vote Republican...so if you work them into a lather and tell them "if you don't vote in favor of the amendment THE GAY ARE GOING TO TAKE YOUR CHILDREN" you increase the Republican turnout at the polls. It's not about gays, it's about getting people to the polls so they'll vote against Obama and against Democrats running for state office. This is how Bush won Ohio in 2004 and beat Kerry. Why are the Democrats still sitting around helplessly without answering back? Why don't they rally their own base? The NC Democratic Party needs to tell everybody "get to the polls and defeat this amendment!" Instead, they leave it up to "gay rights groups" to do that for them. It's pathetic.

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

      Because the Democratic Party has never truly been on board with gay political issues. Moderate Democrats are nothing but Republicans. The Democrats throw piecemeal bones to the gay population every four years and expect this to keep them full until the next election. With Republicans however, gays would have starved to death generations ago.

      September 12, 2011 at 4:51 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Missy

    So many problems in this state, and they want to waste time trying to make something that's already banned even more banned.

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

      It's called overkill. Squashing them into the ground is not enough. You must then roll over them with a steamroller that has been sprayed with holy water.

      September 12, 2011 at 4:33 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Michigan_Joe

    If NC actually knew how much wealth the gay community controlled, it might want to chose a fight with a less affluent group. Bigotry is still rampant in the GOP and it just won't stop. It is operating in the dark and out of fear. That is why next year the whole country will go Democratic. The GOP is hell bent on driving the nails into it's own coffin and making the self imploding Party history.

    September 12, 2011 at 3:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gail D

      Yeah, all 1.5% of the population of the US

      September 12, 2011 at 3:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gail D

      Choose fight w/ less gay group – that way you can pick up the soap !!

      September 12, 2011 at 3:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • apeman

      @ Gail D, REALLY, JUST GO AWAY....GET BUSY MOVING....PRACTICE THAT SQUEAL...

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

      Gail D. why are you intentionally ignorant. It is more like 11.5% than 1.5% Think about it.

      September 12, 2011 at 4:28 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Christopher Rose

    We have 9+% unemployment and the worst economy since the 30's meanwhile our legislature is enacting a law that the new high paying lucrative industries we are trying to attract are opposed to.Plus they are wasting money and time on a law that will at some point almost certainly be appealed or overturned at the federal level. Republicans occasionally make some good financial arguments, but they always devolve to this morality/Religous-legislating that is a huge turn off for independents and generally most people who actually think.

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

      The Tea Party refuses to answer social questions. They will not touch the subject until they get into office and then the gay heads will roll.

      September 12, 2011 at 4:36 pm | Report abuse |
  5. southern

    Dina, if there is a reckoning day for gays and lesbians etc. why does it matter to you? They will have to deal with it, not you and your argument is not a reason to keep them from marrying. Yet another religious idiot trying to use God to make a case.

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

      Im living in this state and I dont want it here, I will go out and tell everyone of his good word !! freedom of speech I didnt say they have to listen but I will say it like it is.... whats gonna be their excuse??? ... " oh we didnt know " no one told us, oh they have been told a thousand times the way they believe in their rights is the way I believe in mine!!!! strong and come out on top on the other side with my beliefs in tact !!! for God and country no gays allowed !!!!!!!

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

      Dina knows God personally. They met in a gay bar.

      September 12, 2011 at 4:38 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Dina

    I think your name its self gives your dumb self away!! God fearing gun totting people ..... dont like move !!!!

    September 12, 2011 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Rob

    "Hey, we're here to get the Gov't out of your lives... AND DIRECTLY INTO YOUR BEDROOM!!!", Perry 2012?

    September 12, 2011 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Ivan Bial

    and that will create how many jobs??

    September 12, 2011 at 3:56 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Ted Ryder

    Look folks you don't live here so you don't know. Ever since a lot of our population caught the gay, there have been hordes of gay couples looting stores, murdering folks in the street, robbing banks and stealing lollipops from small children. Yalll don't know what it's like here. This has to stop. We gotta fight the gay. The gay is spreading from person to person rapidly. We're thinking about making SARS masks mandatory. It's either in the water supply or airborne. God fearing, I don't hope I catch the gay.

    September 12, 2011 at 3:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • WHS

      Ha ha Love It!

      Although in the South I am sure there are people that think it is contagious.

      September 12, 2011 at 4:34 pm | Report abuse |
  10. REALIST

    Everyone consenting adult has the legal right to join themselve legally with another individual. This is a basic civil right. They also have the right to have that Civil union recognized in a church of their choosing. Last time I checked this country enforces religious freedom. There are chuches in the U.S that recognize gay marriage. Are the indvidual rights of churches being violated? All Churches have the right to uphold their values and beleifs. Religion is an enterprise no different than Mcdonalds and Burger King. I would not go into Mcnodalds and demand a Whopper nor would I go into Burger King and demand a big mac. In the same thought, I would not go into a christian/ Cathololic Church and ask for a gay Marriage. I would go to a church that had this as part of their offering.

    September 12, 2011 at 3:56 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Mike

    Such are examples of liberal hypocrisy–marriage is decried and dismissed as 'old fashioned' and 'outdated', and 'why do I need a piece of paper...' etc., but with gays it's some kind of cherished right. Those that are passe about marriage shouldn't give a crap one way or another about what gays can do. But then again, liberals are selective in their reasoning so it's really pointless.

    September 12, 2011 at 3:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chewie Vadar

      Are you a biggot and against gay marriage or do you just not care one way or another?

      September 12, 2011 at 4:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Juan H

      How would you feel if you were not allowed to enter the hospital room of your partner and love for decades because you had no legal right?

      There are MANY more examples. This is have equal protection under the law for couples who have committed their lives together. Simple as that. If you don't get that, then you are part of the problem.

      September 12, 2011 at 4:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Skegeeace

      VERY good point.

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

      It comes down to the fact that you are refusing to give some people the same right that others already have. Any argument against gay marriage is based on the person's dislike of gays or their life style which has no legal standing.

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

    Here is the deal Joe in this country we have this thing called freedom. THe downside is that we all have to tolerate things that we feel are offensive. Like some loudmouth closeted redneck queen who can't even spell chihuahua saying that he would like to kick one. If you are against gay marriage then how it works is that you don't marry somebody that is gay. but if we are going to start taking rights away from people crazy religious zealots are the first on my list I don't carry any strong feelings against any group but you I do not like at all, you know personally. try reading one of those book thingys you know one with words

    September 12, 2011 at 3:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • ashley

      Here's the deal Ed. We tolerate plenty being christians in this day and age. We no longer can state the Pledge of Allegiance or pray over our food together in school. We see gay couples living and showing PDA everywhere, but to try and convince me of gay people needing marriage for tax purposes and what not is ridiculous is quite crazy. To me, it is making more of a mock of marriage, wich is a holy union between man and woman. And so if gay marriage is legalized then we can go ahead like CA and include gays in our school text books, and shove that in our childrens face? oh but just don't bring up our creater in school.

      September 12, 2011 at 7:54 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Mike

    Too many violins in this place.

    September 12, 2011 at 3:57 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Ted Ryder

    Look here yall, you don't live here so you don't know. Ever since a lot of our population caught the gay, there have been hordes of gay couples looting stores, murdering folks in the street, robbing banks and stealing lollipops from small children. Yalll don't know what it's like here. This has to stop. We gotta fight the gay. The gay is spreading from person to person rapidly. We're thinking about making SARS masks mandatory. It's either in the water supply or airborne. God fearing, I don't hope I catch the gay.

    September 12, 2011 at 3:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hound

      Brilliant!!!!!! :)

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

      No.. sadly it is simply SIN spreading so vastly.. just like in sodom and ghommorah

      September 12, 2011 at 9:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Adam

      Hey ashley – another great display of ignorance! It's actually quite funny that you don't even understand your own religion. Sodom and Gomorrah wasn't about sodomy (or "sin" really). It was about a city that was disobeying Jewish law by refusing to welcome visitors. THAT'S why God destroyed it. Lot was saved because he invited the angels into his home, thus obeying Yahweh's law. The citizens did threaten the angels with sodomy, but sodomy in ancient times was a common way of humiliating a foe. Side note – did you know that the early tribes of Israel (same ones who wrote that Bible you love!) sodomized defeated armies after battle? Yup...same Israelites/Abrahamites that were blessed and endorsed by God.

      ...back to Sodom and Gomorrah, though. So Lot was saved, but unfortunately, Lot's wife was turned into a pillar of salt. So naturally, in order to not lose their blood line, Lot's daughters got him drunk and "had relations" with him repeatedly (against his will) until they became pregnant. And, according to the Bible, that was completely acceptable.

      What flimsy "anti-gay" verse would you like to actually understand next? The one in Leviticus? (i.e. the one right next to all the passages about how shellfish and polyester are bad, but slavery is OK?). How about when Jesus talked about gays? Wait, what? He never did?

      You do realize that the Bible is a brief and VERY abridged selection of books chosen many hundreds of years ago by the Catholic Church, right? (and I know you're not Catholic, b/c they're generally not as crazy and misinformed as you seem to be). If you're going to believe something strongly enough to be a bigot and discriminate against other people, you should probably go check the book itself, make sure you understand it (if you don't know how to read, maybe someone with an education can read it to you...), and then reconsider your position.

      September 13, 2011 at 1:49 am | Report abuse |
  15. Dina

    Go North Carolina !!!!!! God Bless you and your decision to stay true to his true faith. Only California doesnt seem to get it !!! may San Fransisco be burried under the ocean for all eternity !

    September 12, 2011 at 3:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bobs your uncle

      With all those exclamation marks I think you protest too much. o_O

      Or too much!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      September 12, 2011 at 4:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Keith in SoJax

      I bet Jesus can't wait to get you in heaven!

      September 12, 2011 at 4:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Paul

      Gay marriage is not legal in California. But it is legal in New York, Massachusetts, Vermont, Connecticut and New Hampshire.
      I appreciate your that you have faith, but what gives you the right to legislate your faith over everyone else? How would you like it if Muslims tried to legislate their matters of faith in our country?
      "Though hypocrite, remove not the speck from thine brother's eye, for it is the speck in thine own eye that you see."

      September 12, 2011 at 4:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ohnoes

      I can't believe you just said that...I mean seriously, that is the most horrible thing I have heard. What kind of God would encourage the killing of masses because they don't believe what you believe?

      September 12, 2011 at 4:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Scott

      Word of advice, Dina: When you exit your city, remember to look back for us. God has already condemned your house. Now off with you.

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

      Wow! What God would love those kind words of yours? I'll keep the gay and you can keep your hate.

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