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. Will

    SMALL GOVERNMENT NOW!!! (Except when it comes to regulating stuff I don't agree with!!!)

    September 12, 2011 at 3:22 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Not Fat

    Want to know what the real threat to marriage is? Republicans! Half are cheating on their spouses and the other half are in the closet! (Or in the case of Rick Perry, BOTH). States with gay marriage of LOWER divorce rates. Legalize love!!!!

    September 12, 2011 at 3:22 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Will

    The Holy Roller Jesus Freaks want small government, except when it comes to using the government to ram their pitiful "christ" down everyone's throat

    September 12, 2011 at 3:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sarcastic comment

      I'd rather have the word of Christ rammed down my throat, than what you seem to ram down yours!

      September 12, 2011 at 3:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Josh Hedrick

      cant agree with you more.

      September 12, 2011 at 3:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • sarah

      I agree.

      September 12, 2011 at 5:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Edith

      Well said!

      September 12, 2011 at 5:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Elaine

      Here, Here!

      September 12, 2011 at 5:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • ashley

      AMEN! Perfect way to say it 'Sarcastic quote'

      September 12, 2011 at 6:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • The Lady

      @ Sarcastic Comment- well said! Luv it!

      September 13, 2011 at 12:13 am | Report abuse |
  4. Gail D

    I AM MOVING TO NC !!! Good for them. It ain't marriage. Why should we allow this 1.5% of the population to tell us what to do ? We are a democracy – MAJORITY RULES !!!

    September 12, 2011 at 3:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • SlayFalseGod

      Good riddance.Hope you find a nice trailer.

      September 12, 2011 at 3:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • stejo

      Wherever you may currently live, good riddance!

      September 12, 2011 at 3:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jan

      You are an idiot!

      September 12, 2011 at 3:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Scott

      We are not a democracy. We are a representative republic. Welcome to the U.S. Are you threatened by gays getting married? Does it offend you as much as narrow-minded ignorance offends me?

      September 12, 2011 at 3:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Not Fat

      No doubt you would vote to re-legalize racial discrimination. How about a vote to lock up Gail D? Majority rules!!!

      September 12, 2011 at 3:28 pm | Report abuse |

      Gail D,
      No one is forcing you to enter into a Gay Marriage.
      Its about people being able to live in FREEDOM, as the rest of the country does.

      September 12, 2011 at 3:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • JT


      I guess you really are that dumb

      September 12, 2011 at 3:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dal

      "Majority rules" is not how the American 3-branch system of representative democracy works, Gail D. But hey, don't let knowledge spoil the bliss of your ignorance.

      September 12, 2011 at 4:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Really?!

      No one is telling YOU to do anything! It's everyone else telling this "minority" what to do and it's absolutely ridiculous.

      September 12, 2011 at 4:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Callmeishmael

      Democracy is not simply majority rules, you moron. Your ignorant redneck a** will fit right in in N.C. Enjoy.

      September 12, 2011 at 5:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Elaine

      You have no idea what percentage of the population is gay. It wasn't even legal to be gay until 2004. Gays still aren't legally allowed to be who they are in the military. I would imagine that many, many, many gays have never come out of the closet in this hostile environment.

      September 12, 2011 at 5:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tad

      Majority has guided, but not ruled in this country since the 60's...where have you been hiding in Uranus?

      September 12, 2011 at 5:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • ashley

      Gail, I moved to CA 3 years ago and i CANNOT WAIT to get back.. you ask why i say? My husband serves every person in this country so we go where the gov tells us. I have all the faith that NC would never legalize gay marriage

      September 12, 2011 at 6:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Melinda

      Gail – question for you – if it is "Majority Rules" then women wouldn't have the right to vote, schools would still be legally segregated and interracial marraige would still be illegal. Is that the USA you would want to live in ? There are many countries in the world where it is "Majority Rules" without respect of the minority, but the USA is not one of them (at least to this point)

      September 12, 2011 at 8:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Amunaka

      Where do those numbers 1.5% of the population come from ...I mean what was the methodology used to come up with that number..who did that survey..

      September 13, 2011 at 5:43 pm | Report abuse |
  5. GettingTheRedneckVote

    The GOP always brings out these devisive hateful balots to get the neanderthals to the voting booth. Very classy.

    September 12, 2011 at 3:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Elaine

      All they need is an enemy. Give them a percieved enemy and they will crawl to the voting booths.

      September 12, 2011 at 5:39 pm | Report abuse |
  6. trixie

    Let's see... Bank of America, (headquartered in NC) is laying off 30,000 employees. What focusing your energies on some REAL problems?

    September 12, 2011 at 3:25 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Rosslaw

    So what about Bubba marrying his sister? You know, when the DNA starts getting a little too "concentrated" ,so to speak, nothing good is going to come of it. You ever notice how nervous the laughter gets at a Jeff Foxworthy concert when he jokes you know you're a redneck when you go to family reunions to meet women. And this doesn't begin to take account of the "you sure got a purdy mouth" element. Its so nice to know that these free spirits want government out of your lives-and in your bedrooms. Nuff said.

    September 12, 2011 at 3:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dave S.

      You forgot about people who are going to want to marry their pet pig.

      September 12, 2011 at 3:44 pm | Report abuse |
  8. trixie

    oops... make that What about

    September 12, 2011 at 3:25 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Josh Hedrick

    I am sick and tired of my state legislator. I am a citizen of the state of North carolina and I have lost all confidence in my state legislator. It seems that this state legislator picks the dumbest things to vote on and do not address the real issues at hand here. I am looking to run for the state legislator in 2016 and was looking up what our legislator has voted on recently. I kid you not that one of the many things our legislator has voted on is rather or not to rename the yadkin valley river bridge. I mean this is ridiculous that they would actually take the time to vote on this we have real problems here such as unemployment budget crisis things that the state legislator needs to work on to fix but instead they want to outlaw gay marriage, rename bridges cut education and other things. Its time to vote out the idiocracy that has plagued Raliegh and vote in people who actually care about the state and has the state best interest at heart not forcing down thier morals or agendas down our throats.

    September 12, 2011 at 3:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dave S.

      Haven't you been listening to Michelle and Rick? ALL of the problems in our country are because of gay people.

      September 12, 2011 at 3:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • US Citizen

      You live in NC but can't spell your capital's name? It's RALEIGH.

      September 12, 2011 at 3:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • JT

      actually they can spell it, they simply crossed two letters in a typo.

      is this the first time you've ever seen a typo? welcome to the internet!

      September 12, 2011 at 3:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • docfee

      I 2nd that nomination. I to live in NC and am sick of our choosen leaders. I will be politicly active in next election cycle.

      September 12, 2011 at 3:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rich

      Please, please, please learn how to write before you run for congress – we have enough idiots there already !!!

      September 12, 2011 at 4:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Aysha

      As a citizen, student, and youth of North Carolina I am constantly displeased with North Carolina decisions with certain things as well. I believe that North Carolina does what's in the best interest of themselves and doesn't even consider what anyone else wants (meaning the general public). From all the issues you just stated I can already tell we're in the same predicament because in Charlotte all they do is fix random roads, build more unnecessary buildings, cut down a large amount of forest areas, cut school funding's and build more empty buildings in that pathetic excuse of a city in downtown Charlotte. The state legislators should be trying harder to provide the necessary needs of the communities that are in real need of help but instead they are trying to become more city-like like New York. Voting on this bill to ban gay-marriage is completely unnecessary since we never voted to allow it to begin with. It's a waste of time, energy and paper.... but mostly paper.

      September 12, 2011 at 5:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • ashley

      You are so right Josh, we need better elected officials all over this country... but with the major issues in the world, especially on the east coast of USA this is such a ridiculous arguement to even have. They can leave it the way it is! I think atleast 80% of NC is fine with how marriage is!

      September 12, 2011 at 7:00 pm | Report abuse |
  10. davetharave

    Sounds like something NC would do.

    September 12, 2011 at 3:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • ashley

      IKR! Praise God!

      September 12, 2011 at 7:38 pm | Report abuse |
  11. JT

    "Look what's happening in other states"

    Yeah, people are getting married, what did you think was gonna happen?

    I suppose that either:

    1) The NC legislature believes there are no gay people in NC.


    2) That the gay people of NC, although full citizens of the state, don't deserve the same rights and privilages of straight citizens.

    I think it'd be easier to swallow if they just came out and said #2 like they mean it.

    September 12, 2011 at 3:26 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Grand Ole Posturing

    Right on cue, the GOP finds a way to insert a social "wedge" issue into an election to try to further disenfranchise another part of the population. Have their unemployment and budget issues all been solved, so they have time for this nonsense? Too bad the scientists and educators NC has become known for are no match for the Republican fundamentalists. Onward to the 19th century!

    September 12, 2011 at 3:26 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Sarcastic comment

    How bout those repubs?

    September 12, 2011 at 3:27 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Christian

    Please ban it!

    September 12, 2011 at 3:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Elaine

      Can banning Christianity be on the next legislative agenda?

      September 12, 2011 at 5:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rev. Dr. Ben Cable

      Christian – I respectfully ask why you feel “it” same-gender marriages should be banned?

      September 12, 2011 at 7:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • ashley

      Rev I can tell you my point of view!! I lived in NC for 23 yrs, and have been in CA for 3 years. Gay marriage is legal here and now they have mandated a law to include gays in school text books... And as the governor stated 'if this is immoral then you should remove your morally sensitive children from public schools.' This is not something I want to face or deal with as my girls get into school. Although I have no hate for anyone, I don't feel a lifestyle as such should be shoved into my childrens face or out into society as if it is an acceptable behavior. I cannot condone gay behavior because it is a sin.

      September 12, 2011 at 7:43 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Dennis

    Hate is a family value in N.C.

    September 12, 2011 at 3:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Alan

      Looks like stereotyping is a family value from wherever you live.

      September 12, 2011 at 3:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • iBabble

      @Alan You're right, but actions speak louder than your words....N.C. sending the wrong example.

      September 12, 2011 at 3:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Alan

      @iBabble: True, true.

      September 12, 2011 at 3:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • KC

      More like ignorance is Dennis' family value. Too bad he cannot claim it is genetic.

      September 12, 2011 at 5:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • ashley

      GOD is a family value in NC Dennis. Hope you appreciate and respect that because there are many a good family in lil ol NC!

      September 12, 2011 at 7:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Guest

      So then ashley what happened to the Christian teachings of tolerance and love to ALL people no matter who they are? The hypocrisy and intolerance is staggering sometimes. I miss the times when you could see true christians around instead of people who only pick out parts that fit with their narrow-minded view of how everyone else should behave or think.

      September 12, 2011 at 8:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • ashley

      So guest... in response, I don't see how you're so confused... I love and tolerate everyone, i dont judge nor hate. In the same breath I don't condone sin and i dont want it rushing through our state on a hot rocket like CA, who is now mandating gays be included in their school books... I can stand up for my beliefs, what i know to be right/wrong and i will always stand up for my children, who will go to public schools.

      September 12, 2011 at 10:02 pm | Report abuse |
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