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. Allen Roundtree

    Everything going on right now in our country and this is what ya'll are worried about! Can you say SLOW!!!

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

    What took NC so long? They need to defend marriage.

    September 12, 2011 at 5:01 pm | Report abuse |
  3. SlayFalseGod

    This is the kind of thing the GOP does to bring their base together : single out a minority group for abuse and use it to get votes.
    When these nuts say stuff like ' the '64 civil rights bill is a over reach of the fed " it means " hey – we dont respect minorities , vote for me I'll put them in their place " ....

    September 12, 2011 at 5:02 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Nunya

    Is there anyone people in North Carolina DON'T HATE?

    September 12, 2011 at 5:02 pm | Report abuse |
  5. sillybean

    ...for the Bible tells me so...oh wait, which "Bible" are we using today?

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

      Just the verses that can be interpreted to mean what we want them to mean.

      September 12, 2011 at 5:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Me

      The one with 66 books, the only one that is Gods word..

      September 12, 2011 at 5:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • mightyfudge

      me- ALL words in the bible are the words of men. do your research. Or are you scared of the real truth? furthermore, the old and new testemant are mutually exclusive. one cannot simutaneously preach forgivenes AND vengence.

      September 12, 2011 at 5:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Derrick

      It is Gods word because that man over there said so.

      September 12, 2011 at 5:19 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Craig

    I can hear the echos, "segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever."

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

      Christians get to pick and choose who gets to participate in life. All others – SORRY! Maybe in the next life you can play. Go stick your head in the sand and don't come up until the majority Christians tell you you can.

      September 12, 2011 at 5:21 pm | Report abuse |
  7. yalesouth

    i guess we could expect something like this from the carolinas.

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

      Naturally. South Carolina elects married with children politicians that fly to Argentina for a piece of _ _ _ _ _.

      September 12, 2011 at 5:13 pm | Report abuse |
  8. IHopper

    Way to reinforce your stereotype NC!

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

      They are as bad as rap stars. They just can not escape the stereotypes. They fall right in the stereotypical hole that society digs for them.

      September 12, 2011 at 5:14 pm | Report abuse |
  9. yalesouth

    and southerns wonder why they are the posterchild for being backwards bigots lol?

    September 12, 2011 at 5:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Me

      By bigots you mean taking a stand against what is evil instead of nothing is wrong, do whatever you want, no such thing as evil, bury your head in the sand..

      September 12, 2011 at 5:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • A Freudian Slip

      It's hilarious that you use the 'backwards' word. That IS your style, isn't it?

      September 12, 2011 at 5:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • mightyfudge

      I hpoe there is a hell. because "me" is going to be one of my top clients at the "division of ironic punishment".

      September 12, 2011 at 5:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Raven

      Could it be because they really are the poster child for backwards. It's a race between them and Arkansas.

      September 12, 2011 at 5:23 pm | Report abuse |
  10. mightyfudge

    "Calling it a step backwards for the state..." And you're shocked by this?!? Backwards is the only direction the South moves.

    September 12, 2011 at 5:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • You said it, I didn't

      Another fan of doing it backwards. They live among us.

      September 12, 2011 at 5:20 pm | Report abuse |
  11. DrDoITT

    every state needs to pass this. we need at protect marriage at the federal level.

    September 12, 2011 at 5:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Me


      September 12, 2011 at 5:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Shane

      This will not stop the birth of more and more gay people. No matter what nasty road blocks you put in place. There will be future generations of gay people who will wonder what you people were drinking.

      September 12, 2011 at 5:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • wblanco85

      50% Divorce Rate.

      September 12, 2011 at 5:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • juliamcfit

      What does my marriage have to do with yours? Nothing. Stop discriminating against me. I deserve the same rights to marriage as you do.

      September 12, 2011 at 5:19 pm | Report abuse |
  12. sunnygirl

    um, what's wrong with voting? this country is a democracy.. let the people have a voice...

    September 12, 2011 at 5:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tewks44

      just letting you know this isn't something that is put to popular vote.

      September 12, 2011 at 5:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • hobbit

      No, this country in not a is a representative Republic.

      September 12, 2011 at 5:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • They want it all

      Just letting you know Tewksie pie, YES IT IS!!

      September 12, 2011 at 5:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • wblanco85

      because in the past people would have voted against you having a vote! the majority is not always right! read the article-we should learn from our mistakes and history.

      September 12, 2011 at 5:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • ashley

      Oh if Nc has the vote it will go through without a doubt. I would bet my families savings on no more than 20% of NC supporting gay marriage... Most of NC is still a very religious and moral state.– THANK GOD- we know by your word, right from wrong!

      September 12, 2011 at 8:47 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Tewks44

    Can our public servants please debate about policies that will actually improve the lives of average Americans? Why are politicians in N.C. wasting their time trying to ban citizens from making decisions adults should be able to make when there is so much unemployment and public debt? If we're going to make laws based on bigotry can we at least do it in times of prosperity?

    September 12, 2011 at 5:09 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Mike

    One could argue that the public will get to comment when it is put on the ballot. That, after all, is the ultimate comment. Agree or disagree with the proposal but voice your opinion at the ballot box.
    I for one think people of a state should have more say in major pieces of legislation by voting on it. I realize we are a Democratic Republic but matters such as these should not simply be passed by representatives.
    The people's voice must be heard.

    September 12, 2011 at 5:10 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Cdn Jim

    But marrying your sister, that's still okay, right?

    September 12, 2011 at 5:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • A Family Affair

      I'm sure it is where you live. You must be quite relieved.

      September 12, 2011 at 5:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • ashley

      about 'marrying your sister'... they can still make a baby right?.. But I think someone told me earlier our laws are only for first cousins to get married nowaday!.. funny thing is that marriage can still prosper a family!

      September 12, 2011 at 8:49 pm | Report abuse |
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