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. bspurloc

    keep thanking that god of yours... u know the one that is teaching u peace and luv, yet u spread hate...
    but then again thats how mankind interprets things from this GOD..... only see things how u THINK they should be not how that their bible tells u.... so u must peace luv arabs too via hate..

    September 12, 2011 at 4:14 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  2. bspurloc

    the bible belt breeds hate for mankind and non christians..... ignorance is a beautiful thing......

    September 12, 2011 at 4:16 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • CosmicC

      Yes, we're much better in NY. We hate everyone equally.

      September 12, 2011 at 4:45 pm | Report abuse |
  3. NO GAY MARRIAGES HERE

    No Gay Marriages in NC PLEASE!!!

    September 12, 2011 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Darth Vadik, CA

      Go pound sand...LOL

      September 12, 2011 at 4:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • SmithCommaJohn

      How would letting gay people get married affect you in any way?

      September 12, 2011 at 4:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • yeahalright

      So don't marry someone of the same gender. What do you think gives you the right to tell others not to?

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

    lol there are still going to be gay people even if gay marriage is banned.

    September 12, 2011 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Jack

    It's okay, however, to marry your sister, brother, uncle, aunt, cousin, etc.

    September 12, 2011 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Jim

    Another example of how the Republicans want government out of your business... unless you're gay or want an abortion

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

      Precisely

      September 12, 2011 at 4:34 pm | Report abuse |
  7. bravesoul

    Please don't say NC doesn't matter. Just ask President Obama how important we are to his re-election, he comes to this state frequently and will be here this week. Please don't call us inbred, ignorant, backwards or hicks–we're not. Ignorance lives everywhere. I do not support the actions the Republicans took today and will attend an vigil tonight alongside others who believe as I do. I am as frustrated by this disgusting piece of legislation as many of you are but I won't resort to calling you names in my defence. While I understand many folks anger, I also know that being mean only alienates and further divides even those of us who share the same opinions. Those of us who are in agreement need to seek ways to support one another not throw insults based on negative geographical sterotypes.

    September 12, 2011 at 4:18 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  8. NO GAY MARRIAGES HERE

    PLEASE NC NO GAY MARRIAGES we have enough problems!!!

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

      You have been looking in the mirror again? Did you brush your one and only tooth today?

      September 12, 2011 at 4:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • whatevs

      the problems that you have enough of are idiots such as yourself!

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

      And what problems would gay marriage cause?

      September 12, 2011 at 4:28 pm | Report abuse |
  9. JW

    The south once justified slavery on the basis of their interpretation of the Bible as well . . . so no surprise to hear the same arguments made for others of the human race.

    September 12, 2011 at 4:19 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • KyleGlobal

      Same ol' bigotry. New century, new group of people to aim it at. It's OK, they've embarrassed themselves in history before fighting a war in favor of slavery and then another solid century of bigotry against minorities written into their laws. This will be no different. I guess they just don't learn.

      September 12, 2011 at 4:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • ashley

      Aye Kyle you want to talk about history, as if the Bible stated racism is the way to go but why don't you mention sodom and ghommorah, what happened with the history of that gay town?

      September 12, 2011 at 9:27 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Ben Dover

    But now what will I do with my weddin dress? And Butchalianna just borrowed that tux from his mama!

    September 12, 2011 at 4:19 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Lee

    Sadly, the white trash has taken over the NC Legislature.

    September 12, 2011 at 4:20 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • ashley

      No– Sadly, racism still lives. Thanks for being known.

      September 12, 2011 at 9:28 pm | Report abuse |
  12. KyleGlobal

    I wonder how the good citizens of North Carolina would have voted had they been able to vote in the 1950s on keeping segregation? My guess is their would have been a resounding vote in favor of limiting the rights of their fellow non-white citizens. Votes like the one they are planning will be just as embarrassing in the coming decades as if they would have allowed the people of NC to vote in favor of segregation in previous decades. Wrong side of history.

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

      Actually, the good citizens of North Carolina did illegalize interracial marriage and never voted to permit it. It took a US Supreme Court to overturn the law.

      September 12, 2011 at 4:36 pm | Report abuse |
  13. ivan

    Backward thinking people belong together so ... let North Carolina have it's way and let the straight and gay people with intelligence move to the north east. We read text books up here.

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

      Best idea I've heard yet!! Just leave us good old folks our farms, bibles, BBQs, first class schools, and fishin holes... We'll be just fine, I promise!

      September 12, 2011 at 9:31 pm | Report abuse |
  14. DJReplay

    Get the government out of the marriage business altogether. Stop subsidizing "normal" marriage and giving tax breaks for childless married couples. Get marriage out of the news. All marriages would henceforth be private ceremonies and contracts between people in love. It won't happen, but it's a nice dream.

    September 12, 2011 at 4:22 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Jonline

    It's amazing how people are wililng to codify into their consitutions ripping rights away from people. Didn't we do that with slavery. I do agree businesses who would be wililng to do business in North Carolina because of its New South image might take a step back and rethink that decision

    September 12, 2011 at 4:22 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • CosmicC

      Moreover, they should think about the potential economic benefit of allowing gay marriage, especially given the potential for increased honeymoon vacations.

      September 12, 2011 at 4:41 pm | Report abuse |
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