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. Pat

    Why is everyone afraid to let the people of the state vote on what they believe and not whot you want them believe?

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

      Do you want slavery and women's right to vote up for a vote too?

      September 12, 2011 at 4:53 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Wombat

    These NC Tea Party Republicans campaigned on the promise of creating more jobs and a better economy. They've done nothing the create jobs or help the economy in the 9 months they've held the General Assembly, even with veto power. What they have accomplished is pushing forward a social agenda (extreme abortion laws, defunding education, and now this) that was/is not wanted by the majority and was never mentioned in their campaigns. November 2012!

    September 12, 2011 at 4:50 pm | Report abuse |
  3. RayJacksonMS

    Further proof avoiding job creation is the republicans number one priority.

    September 12, 2011 at 4:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Linda - Salt Lake City, Utah

      So true!!!!! The GOP's only goal it seems is to defeat the black guy and to tell us all how to live.......

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

    Disgusting! Typical BS from our fascist friends in Raleigh. Gay people should have the right to marry. Why shouldn't they be as miserable as the rest of us. Marriage = prison.

    September 12, 2011 at 4:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Linda - Salt Lake City, Utah

      Now that is just way too funny 🙂

      September 12, 2011 at 4:57 pm | Report abuse |
  5. michael smith

    Hatred: It will be America's undoing.

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

      maybe.. but i think sin corruption and greed cover all the big problems.

      September 12, 2011 at 8:51 pm | Report abuse |
  6. 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 4:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • KyleGlobal

      We're not a theocracy.

      September 12, 2011 at 4:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • SlayFalseGod

      Isnt Pride a sin ? Worry about your own relationship with God not mine.

      September 12, 2011 at 4:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • David

      I have no qualms or issues with any religion. But, it has been proven, anyone who uses their religion as a platform to get things done and to decide what is best for the good of the country would be considered an extremist.

      September 12, 2011 at 4:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Missy

      I respect your beliefs. But do you respect that this country is made up of many beliefs, and our laws have to be inclusive of everyone's rights, not just the rights of those who agree with our personal beliefs?

      September 12, 2011 at 5:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • yalesouth

      you can always move to the middle est if you want to be governed by a gang f zealots, but this is the us,, where equality and separation of church and state should reign

      September 12, 2011 at 5:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • HDR

      Keep your mythology and witchcraft to yourself. The greatest hate comes from those who "know" they have god on their side. I expect nothing less from one of the great traitor states when it comes to discrimination.

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

      Who ordained divorce??? Doesn't the bible say if one man puts away one wife and marries another while the first is still living, both have committed adultery??? Why don't we ever discuss this part of the bible????

      September 12, 2011 at 5:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • MIchael

      What does God have to do with marriage. It is a right, not a christian right. Its a civil right. You don't have to be a christian to get married. Get off the religious talk. Remember when whites and blacks could not marry? Women could not vote? Women were second class citizens? etc. Its called progress.

      September 12, 2011 at 5:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sam

      Why are you a Christian?

      Don't define what a Christian is. I am not asking you that.

      I am asking you why YOU are a Christian?

      I will tell you why. Because you were born and raised in a Christian country and family.

      Luck of the draw.

      Had you been born in Iraq you would be very different most likely.

      Born in India -same thing. Very diff.

      When will people start to understand that religion is a chain that keeps them from growing. Learn to let other people have ideas and beliefs different from you. And don't judge them or call them sinners. You would be so different if you were born 200 hrs ago or in another country today.

      September 12, 2011 at 5:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • mightyfudge


      September 12, 2011 at 5:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • ashley

      God created holy matrimony, and other than making a mock of marriage gays simply want tax benefits.. And I still cannot see why people are screaming out hate because there are christians standing up for what is right and moral, as well as for their families. and tib who said divorce is ok??

      September 12, 2011 at 8:57 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Fred Evil

    We should vote on this, right after we outlaw divorce!

    September 12, 2011 at 4:53 pm | Report abuse |
  8. sharon

    Discrimination against any group is wrong. Every state has folks who stand for and against hatred; it is not unique to the south. Typifying southerners negatively doesn't really help the issue. The answer is to get to know people as individuals. This is what erases fear and prejudice and promotes justice for all people.

    September 12, 2011 at 4:53 pm | Report abuse |
  9. gaucho420

    Rednecks will do what rednecks will do. They're like the American Taliban, legistlating from a religious text.

    September 12, 2011 at 4:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ronnie R.

      So I see prejudice against rednecks huh?! And lump everyone in the south into that category..Let me see I live in the south and have my whole life..I am not a redneck,don't have a gun,don't have a truck,don't drink beer,live on a farm or wear a wife beaters shirt,Oh and I could care less about the religion of the bible belt ..The debate of gay marriage is going on in all states and not just here..So before you make a stupid rascist remark like you have about the south please know what your talking about!!!

      September 12, 2011 at 5:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • mightyfudge

      Ronnie r is abigoted redneck.

      September 12, 2011 at 5:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • xjdavid

      Ron, Redneck is not a race.

      September 12, 2011 at 5:33 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Ken

    So tiresome....this issue is old, boring and irrelevant. This country has one hec of a lot more important things to deal with that outlawing gay marriage. Let's just move on. I'd be in favor of decriminalizing polygamy...probably lead to better home life for kids....a spouse could always be at home while the other two (or three) were working. Now that's a nuclear family for the 21st century.

    September 12, 2011 at 4:55 pm | Report abuse |
  11. William

    Well if North Carolina wishes to prevent the recognition of gay marriage of the LEGAL citizens of the state, then they will ALSO have no problem with any gay person, couple or their supporters refusing to pay any taxes.

    September 12, 2011 at 4:56 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Frank

    People of the United States of America and President Obama.
    Since I have been to both NC & SC let me say this about that.
    That law may really have a hard time passing in NC.What they should really do is re-pass the laws if they do exist that you can not marry your mother,father.sister,brother,1,2.3rd or 4th cousin or any mammal with 4 legs.

    September 12, 2011 at 4:58 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Jausti

    They have to hurry in case they lose the majority in the next election, right? Let's push it through before anyone could possibly have time to read or, heaven forbid, think about it. The people I know affected by the bill have longer standing and deeper relationships than all the divorced people around me.

    September 12, 2011 at 4:58 pm | Report abuse |
  14. mike

    The teabagger slogan: "NO government regulations!!! (With the exception of your personal life.)"

    September 12, 2011 at 4:59 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Amunaka

    How did the vote in NC over interracial marriage back in 1967 turn out ...did the people of NC vote for or against it ...

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