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. Ben Dover

    Everbody here its daisychain time!

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

    The sooner people realize that the US is not the "kingdom of heaven" where Christ reigns supreme with a moral law that is precise (no gray areas) and demanding, and the our nation stands on the foundation of diversity in beliefs and people, the sooner we can put this sort of stuff behind us and move on to other issues we face as a nation. Yes, the politicians lied to you, this isn't God's chosen nation of good little Christian boys and girls, and never was.

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

      All I hear is the rambling of a fool.

      September 12, 2011 at 4:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • ashley

      DEAD ON Tristan! This nation was founded under god and that green lil money people carry around still says 'In GOD We Trust'.. And if you know anyone in NC you should know that God fearing state would pass the ban in a second!

      September 12, 2011 at 9:21 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Church of Suicidal

    Here's a simple litmus test for y'all. If the people that agree with you include the Klan and Westboro Baptist Church, you're on the wrong side.

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

    Ah, the South. Marriage is all about love, no matter who the participants are. I guess they have different ideas about it in the South, where teeth-baring hatred still festers just below its shiny new surface.

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

      What does being from the south have to do with anything. Didn't California vote to ban gay marriage??? ...hmmm...No I see no flaw in your logic about it being a southern thing to be against your liberal views

      September 12, 2011 at 4:38 pm | Report abuse |
  5. FedUp

    oh for cryin'-out-loud. It's NORTH CAROLINA, forgodsake! Why should we even bother there? These politicians are still sippin' moonshine and breeding with their cousins!

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

      I have relatives in NC and wish I could disagree with you, but I don't think I can

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

      As a native North Carolinian, I'm pretty upset about this potential ammendment, but I also would like to know what impeccably enlightened part of the universe the NC haters hail from. NC is a populous state, full of enlightenment and ignorance, kind of like everywhere else...

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

      As I recall CA and several other states have banned gay marriage. And it barely passed in NY. There are bigots everywhere. Get off your high horse.

      September 12, 2011 at 4:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • ash

      over half of the population of NC aren't native North Carolinians. the state of NC also voted for Barack Obama in 2008. plus, they have one of the top university programs in the entire country. they're not as backwards and idiotic as you'd like to think...and if they are, then stop moving there for corporate jobs located there and sending your kids to our state schools.

      September 12, 2011 at 4:52 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Phil

    I like the response that Whoopi Goldberg said on the View last week "if you are do not like gay marriages then DON'T marry a gay person"

    September 12, 2011 at 4:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • nowhoopi

      Whoopi is probably a gap-lapper herself

      September 12, 2011 at 4:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • liz

      Unless Whoopi is gap-lapping you, it's none of your business

      September 12, 2011 at 4:50 pm | Report abuse |
  7. avocet

    Let's ban redheads from marrying. They're such a small minority they can't possibly stop us from passing the law. What, it doesn't hurt anyone if they get married? Isn't our offense at their getting married enough of a reason?

    September 12, 2011 at 4:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Newyorker

      Gays can't breed, but redheads can. Now that's scary.

      September 12, 2011 at 4:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • They CanBreed

      Hey Newyorker, actually G-ays CAN breed! Get a G-ay and a Les-bian together and see that they CAN make a baby!

      September 12, 2011 at 5:31 pm | Report abuse |
  8. thomas mc

    North Carolina: land of hate-mongering bigots!

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

      You mean like CA?

      September 12, 2011 at 4:48 pm | Report abuse |
  9. coder

    can you put a bill on the ballot that holds politicians accountable for their actions???
    can you select any particular god and put it on the ballot?
    – so america can choose which religion it intends on defending
    Can you put 'none of the above' on the ballot and force the politicians to come up with something better?

    September 12, 2011 at 4:42 pm | Report abuse |
  10. AWillard

    Can't say I'm shocked, then again NC is the most liberal of the two Carolinas (we became a blue state in the 2008 elections), and thats not really saying much. Honestly they have better things to worry (economy, unemployment, etc.), then to pass a law because the Bible says iits immoral.

    September 12, 2011 at 4:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joe

      That doesn't stop the GOP from using a wedge issue to distract from their abysmal record.

      September 12, 2011 at 4:56 pm | Report abuse |
  11. John Asner

    Good. I'm glad more states are banning the abomination

    September 12, 2011 at 4:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • WL

      Abomination? As this anything like the abominable snow man? If it is, then I'm for banning the abomination as well; but gay marriage? I'd rather have them marry then continue to live in "sin", wouldn't you?

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

      bend over john....

      September 12, 2011 at 5:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • ashley

      WL, Tom... you should see how histories story played out... why don't you read sodom and ghommorah

      September 12, 2011 at 9:08 pm | Report abuse |
  12. ERICK

    i LOVE it!!!! Writing a law to actually discriminate against people. Isn't that Un-American???

    September 12, 2011 at 4:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • steve

      But not new

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

      I think the arguement is,... Is it really discrimination or stating what is right/wrong? Sure that depends on your religious beliefs

      September 12, 2011 at 9:10 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Patriot

    And Republicans want to take back the White House..! It amazes me that these 'Tea Party' lunatics have a following at all but we are dealing with the South and old traditions die hard. Thank heavens that educated independent voters are now the majority in the South and nonsense like this proposed amendment will motivate them to vote the idiots out of existence.

    September 12, 2011 at 4:48 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Tanker Ray

    Interracial marriage used to be banned, too. Now it isn't and as far as I can tell the sun is still shining, the earth is spinning and the country has not fallen into chaos and blood fueled anarchy. If you think two gays getting married will make your marriage meaningless, it probably already is.

    September 12, 2011 at 4:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Linda - Salt Lake City, Utah

      Couldn't have said it any better Tanker Ray 🙂

      September 12, 2011 at 4:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Punkin

      that is such a wonderful point!

      September 12, 2011 at 5:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brian M.

      Excellent point Tanker Ray!! Thank you!!

      September 12, 2011 at 5:21 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Jeff

    This is mostly a generational thing. Why bother spending money and passing legislation when it's just going to end up repealed once the baby boomers start dying off?

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

      Seriously. They're not exactly going to be leaving an enduring legacy here.

      September 12, 2011 at 4:57 pm | Report abuse |
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