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. D Russell

    I have yet to meet a Christian who would make me want to become one.

    September 12, 2011 at 4:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • JW

      Sad, isn't it.

      September 12, 2011 at 4:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • apeman

      I'm left in silent agreement....

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

      @D Russell, it is so sad. Most Christians I meet are nothing like what Jesus was like.

      “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. They are so unlike your Christ.” Gandhi

      September 12, 2011 at 4:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • ashley

      Hope you have the chance to witness a miracle in life- that would speak volumes

      September 12, 2011 at 9:33 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Sean

    I think you shadowboxed yourself in the head a few to many times... Bigot.

    September 12, 2011 at 4:24 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Robita

    So, you Tea Bags should be against this amendment, but NO you're not. What happened to no government in your business? Oh, right, it only applies to money, you don't mind if we have laws that support bigotry.

    September 12, 2011 at 4:25 pm | Report abuse |
  4. tekstep1

    Guys, please know that we are not all inbred hicks in NC. I am adamantly for gay marriage and the majority of my freinds and family are too. Its the Republican controled house thats pushing this through, not the people. Just like our current situation at the federal level. NC is one of the more liberal states in the south. Nothing like SC, AL, MS, TN, or GA. We are educated, empathetic, and socially progressive in comparison. Just sux that this is how we are represented to the rest of the country.

    September 12, 2011 at 4:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ted Ryder

      This is true. I live here. It's a beautiful state. Plus you get your taxes reduced if you do your sister.

      September 12, 2011 at 4:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • tekstep1

      You must be from Robeson County...

      September 12, 2011 at 4:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • apeman

      Please make YOUR voices heard.....all this name calling is ridiculous....this is serious business with serious consequences for all involved....keep your religious beliefs out of government issues....God doesn't care about such petty nonsensical issues....

      September 12, 2011 at 4:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • pete

      Guess we'll find out at the ballot box, won't we? I mean, if California, the very definition of liberal, voted for a gay marriage ban, what do you really think will happen in North Carolina? Luckily for you, some judge will legislate it for you, whether it passes or not.

      September 12, 2011 at 4:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • tekstep1

      As they should, Pete, the same way Civil Rights was and Women's rights were. And by the way, the reason the CA law was passed was due to the millions poured into it by organizations outside of the state, such as the Mormon church.

      September 12, 2011 at 4:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ted Ryder

      Are you kidding? God authored the amendment. He came in all upset with an elephant pinned to his lapel. He was shouting about Jesus and his long hair and many male friends.

      September 12, 2011 at 4:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gail D

      Just like the NY Senate and Assembly pushed through gay "marriage" against the will of it's people. Call it a union, give them the perks they want, just don't make me throw up by calling it marriage

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

      Don't see how you can say that God doesn't care when marriage was ordained by God between a man and a woman! You can't call me a hater either... you don't know me.... and yes I am a christian and I say that with pride! I am saved which is why I do not hate gays... as a christian I have a compassionate heart and I want to see everyone do whats right but not by mans standards only God's.

      September 12, 2011 at 4:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • tekstep1

      Too bad God doesn't run this country Sandy, Man does. Sepreation of church and state. Get over it.

      September 12, 2011 at 4:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • ashley

      Tekstep, I mean Mr, Answers.... 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 God is the basis of Marriage

      September 12, 2011 at 9:15 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Jessica

    It would be nice to start to see someone playing these hideous games with Republicans family's lives. Where the @$#! is the "Compassionate Conservatism" now??? This is also a get the haters to the polls on election day gimmick so they can vote against Obama.

    September 12, 2011 at 4:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tristan

      Liberals are the Americans who know nothing of politics and government.

      September 12, 2011 at 4:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gay

      Compassionate Conservative was a campaign slogan to win the executive office and avenge Saddam Hussein for putting a bounty on Daddy Bush.

      September 12, 2011 at 6:16 pm | Report abuse |
  6. KyleGlobal

    You will be looked at in history the same way those favoring segregation in the South were from the previous century. One day, your grandchildren can be embarrassed by your bigotry as well. Congrats.

    September 12, 2011 at 4:26 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Nick

    let everyone get married state and local governments and collect the tax money off of all the fees for marridge certificates/licencing and divorce proceedings. 🙂

    September 12, 2011 at 4:26 pm | Report abuse |
  8. JW

    If puritanism is so important to you people, why don't you just implement the whole spectrum of prohibitions, rather than just conveniently pick and choose the ones you want, and keep the ones you like??

    September 12, 2011 at 4:27 pm | Report abuse |
  9. penquin3

    So nice to see that NC has fixed any other issues they may be having and can waste time on a bill like this. They must have a balanced budget, no crime, excellent schools, tons of jobs, no foreclosures, etc, etc, or any of the other problems that all the other states have.
    Why is the Republican party so worried about what people are doing in the privacy of their bedrooms?

    September 12, 2011 at 4:28 pm | Report abuse |
  10. David

    This does not make sense. It should be up to the judicial system to allow such things, not people. That's like rewinding it back to the 60's and putting equal rights on a ballot. You honestly think it would have gone through?

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

      So the government should make all the decisions for you? What dictatorship did you grow up in? Welcome to Democracy.

      September 12, 2011 at 4:35 pm | Report abuse |
  11. KyleGlobal

    Might as well throw segregation back on the ballot as well.

    September 12, 2011 at 4:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tristan

      Don't be an idiot. Stop comparing gay marriage to segregation. I'm sick of people looking at gay people as being a race.

      September 12, 2011 at 4:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • KyleGlobal

      OK, how about the same as laws banning interracial marriage. It's pretty much EXACTLY the same. I mean, same bigotry, different flavor. And religion was also used to justify racism and even slavery, so it's not like bigotry in the name of religion is new. And we're not a theocracy, so we shouldn't be basing civil law on people's (conflicting) personal religious views. Rights should not be up for a vote.

      September 12, 2011 at 4:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • KyleGlobal

      And that's the point of bringing up segregation. Allowing people to vote on what rights a minority can and cannot have is not the best of ideas.

      September 12, 2011 at 5:00 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Ben Dover

    open for bussiness.

    September 12, 2011 at 4:29 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Equality

    GOPs love to promote free market with less regulation, but hate free society with less laws telling people what to do. Oh the irony!!!

    September 12, 2011 at 4:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dan Halen

      It's not only ironic, but hypocrisy at its finest. These blowhard republicans are nothing more than two faced hypocrites. Always have been, always will be.

      September 12, 2011 at 4:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tristan

      I can't wait to vote against gay marriage. 🙂

      September 12, 2011 at 4:51 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Josh

    I dont care what side of the story you stand on...Please do not compare slavery to gay marrige...It is no where near the same thing. To say so is very stupid.

    September 12, 2011 at 4:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • KyleGlobal

      True, it's more like segregation.

      September 12, 2011 at 4:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tristan

      @kyleglobal – You are doing exactly what the person posting this is against. idiot

      September 12, 2011 at 4:46 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Chasity

    Geez people like really. I mean, i know people are going to be proudly gay no matter what, which is not a problem, however, shouldn't the state of our country matter more than someone getting rights for marriage. I mean, if the country goes down, you willl not have to worry about who you'll be marrying...Just saying...I really don't want to offend anyone...I'm just saying

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