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. Melinda

    Ashley –
    1. Gays in the schoolbooks – OMG – they have always been there -Michaelangelo Alexander the Great and Walt Whitman for starters.
    2. I don't recall Jesus calling out gay people, but he did call out moneylenders – why isn't the Religious Right up in arms against the banks and financial sectors – oh that's right ... those are the people that finance the right and tell them what to get riled up about every election cycle.

    September 12, 2011 at 8:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • PHIL

      You are so correct.....

      September 12, 2011 at 8:26 pm | Report abuse |
  2. @ashley

    Oooh, I see. So it's just fine with you to have an incestuous relationship with a close member of your family and inbreed, because of something written in ancient times to "be fruitful and multiply" and bring forth potentially genetically inferior, but it's not okay for two people to have a committed relationship marry and adopt unwanted children that the abortion fanatics forced women to have. Swell.
    That's all you can say? It happens?
    That's even more disgusting!

    September 12, 2011 at 8:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • FormerMarineSgt

      What does that have to do with gay marriage?


      September 12, 2011 at 8:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • ashley

      Yea what cousins do could matter less to me, but there are plenty of loving couples who cannot have children, and guess what- they aren't gay! annnd i dont know what abortion fanatics has to do with me

      September 12, 2011 at 10:45 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Missy

    From a local NC paper: The old guy speaking in the video is the primary sponsor of the amendment. Notice he says that gays need to have their lifestyle changed "back to one we accept."

    September 12, 2011 at 8:37 pm | Report abuse |
  4. @ashley

    Let me married your first cousin.

    September 12, 2011 at 8:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • ashley

      aww thats so cute, making assumptions and such... no no actually i am half of an interacial couple. and there sare so many other interesting facts of my life! what else do you need to know to understand why i think gay marriage is wrong?

      September 12, 2011 at 11:32 pm | Report abuse |
  5. @ashley

    "I haven’t judged anyone hun… I’ve only stood up for what I believe is right, and that is a marriage between man and woman… and that is what my bible tells me."

    Nope. You just judged a whole lotta people.

    September 12, 2011 at 8:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • ashley

      You are confused. are you saying God judged everyone as gay to be sinners?? because you are right about that.... I only follow my religious beliefs, and that is that being gay is a sin. period.

      September 12, 2011 at 10:47 pm | Report abuse |
  6. slogreport

    if they ban gay marriage in north carolina, people will not be able to slog at

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

    Let's consider a ban on North Carolina.

    September 12, 2011 at 9:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • g

      Or a ban on ignorant people like you who thing Gay Marriage is OK

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

      g: why do you think that people who are okay with gay marriage are ignorant? I think you do not understand the word and are perhaps using it because you think it means something bad, right?

      Ignorant means not understanding something. I am straight and very aware of the implications of gay marriage. I can also imagine the effect this will have on North Carolina tourism and business interests. Progressive companies will stop using North Carolina as a location for meetings and not consider opening branches there.

      You'd think the state legislators would be more concerned with the economy, but apparently dictating morality is more important that jobs. But the GOP has always been more concerned with a social agenda than the economic welfare of others...

      September 12, 2011 at 10:32 pm | Report abuse |
  8. @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!"

    And so can gay couples, who adopt the babies that the religious 'right' want women to carry because they don't believe in abortion, either. It is staggering to me that you would condone incestuous relations, and the issuances thereof, but not gay relations, with the couple adopting unwanted children. That just blows my mind!

    September 12, 2011 at 9:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • ashley

      Uhm.. I'd rather see 2 cousins married( not that anyone would know unless they told) than a gay marriage anyday! And what does adoption have to do with being fruitful and multiplying? A gay couple cannot ever possibly naturally make a child. period. as for adopting unwanted children.. many infertile couples do that regularly!

      September 12, 2011 at 10:22 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Thats It

    Simply BOY-COTT North Carolina for years and see how they like THAT!

    September 12, 2011 at 9:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • ashley

      hey now thats an idea! don't forget that includes our farms.

      September 12, 2011 at 10:37 pm | Report abuse |
  10. @ashley......

    It's discrimination. Pure and simple. Saying gay people only want to get married for the tax benefit is just as ridiculous as saying straight people only want to get married for tax benefits.
    Why did you get married? I assume it was for love....who is anyone to deny that same gift to gay people?

    September 12, 2011 at 9:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rebecca

      too right! Love is love..

      September 12, 2011 at 10:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • g

      Discrimination is based on the physical

      September 12, 2011 at 10:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • ashley

      I got married under god in a holy matrimony, so my reasoning is very different than someone who wants the piece of paper.... I discriminate against gays.. never thought about it that way but it could very well be the bottom line!

      September 12, 2011 at 10:28 pm | Report abuse |
  11. New Sticker

    New Bumper Sticker: REPUBLICANS:: What You Get For Not Voting!

    September 12, 2011 at 9:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Edwin

      ...but I voted! I didn't ask for angry narrow-minded conservatives to run the country into the ground...

      September 12, 2011 at 10:45 pm | Report abuse |
  12. @ashley......

    God is the basis of Holy Matrimony, not marriage. Get it right, please.

    September 12, 2011 at 9:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • ashley

      lol ooook... word play.... holy matrimony was the basis of marriage... but that leads back to god doesn't it? uhm... what was your point again???

      September 12, 2011 at 10:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Edwin

      ashley: as you put it, god WAS the basis of marriage. Now it is a legal status. A lot of people are married by non-religious authorities (Justices, Elvis Impersonators, etc.) who have no standing whatsoever with a religion.

      How about we make gay marriage only performable by someone who does not believe in god - would that be okay?

      September 12, 2011 at 11:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • ashley

      ed it simply should not be called marriage. call it whatever you like for your tax reasons but please dont make a mockery of marriage

      September 12, 2011 at 11:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ozymandias71

      ashley – "but please dont make a mockery of marriage". The 50% hetero divorce rate already does that... but you're not foaming at the mouth asking to ban divorce, are you? Hypocrite.

      September 13, 2011 at 12:02 am | Report abuse |
    • ashley

      Are u serious? what can we do about people already mocking marriage but to add a whole new branch in the equation.. that will really clarify...

      September 13, 2011 at 12:05 am | Report abuse |
    • Ozymandias71

      ashley – "Are u serious?" You betcha. You're a hypocrite. You're also a poor 'representative of Christ' to any Gay or Lesbian reading your comments.

      September 13, 2011 at 12:10 am | Report abuse |
    • ashley

      I don't speak for christ, thats pretty crazy because the bible is what speaks for christ. and not wanting to further damage what marriage is... i dont see that being a hypocrit..

      September 13, 2011 at 12:16 am | Report abuse |
  13. Kevin

    I, a Marine for 15 years, did not join to defend a country that believes any one group of citizens gets different rights than another. That is discrimination plain and simple and I throw the BS flag.

    September 12, 2011 at 9:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • JeramieH

      Thank you for your service and standing up for what's right.

      September 12, 2011 at 9:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Good Bless NC

      Please... Marine my a$$.
      You are moron gay fool that is crying like a baby that you've been shown your place.

      September 12, 2011 at 10:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rev. Dr. Ben Cable

      Kevin – Thank you for your dedicated service to the United States of America and support of equality for all.

      September 12, 2011 at 10:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Travers

      Thank you Kevin.

      September 12, 2011 at 10:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • b. Slider

      your friend,

      September 12, 2011 at 10:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • billy Jester

      I like a man in uniform. I mean i LIKE a man in uniform.
      from the halls of montazuma to the shpres of tripoli we will fight our countries battles and have a cup of tea.

      September 12, 2011 at 10:47 pm | Report abuse |
  14. jennyy

    way to go NC.these perverts should not be reconized.

    September 12, 2011 at 9:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Travers


      J E N N Y Y.....
      Cant spell your own name ??

      September 12, 2011 at 10:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • b. Slider

      That's one heck of a way to talk about your father.

      September 12, 2011 at 10:44 pm | Report abuse |
  15. kenneth

    I think that most sane people want all gay Americans to have the same rights as straight Americans. However, most of these people, especially in the South, believe that marriage is between one man and one woman. I think that if gay people would come up with a different name besides gay marriage, most Southern Americans would approve.

    September 12, 2011 at 9:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • b. Slider

      the gays ar against gods werd. bad bad bad bad thatz y mi kid iz no allow two go too pubic schoul. We edukate himm good at hume.

      September 12, 2011 at 10:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ozymandias71

      Haven't we already tried 'Separate but Equal'? But hey, if you'll trade in your marriage certificate for a 'civil union' license, then we'll talk.

      September 13, 2011 at 12:04 am | Report abuse |
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