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. ashley

    ardath Read the following and you will see for yourself: Genesis 19:1-13; 2:21-24 Leviticus 18:22; 20:13 Romans 1:18-22;1:18-32 I Corinthians 6:9-11; 7:2-16 2 Corinthians 5:17 Philippians 4:13 Ephesians 5:23-33;4:15 Matthew 19:4-6 1 Peter 3:15 John 15:18-19

    September 13, 2011 at 12:01 am | Report abuse |
    • Ozymandias71

      Anyone notice a bible verse missing in Ashley's rant? I guess John 3:16 doesn't apply to Gays and Lesbians, eh?

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

      what does believing in God have to do with showing being gay is a sin?? God loves all his children, as I have stated but he hates sin... So I wouldn't expect the pearly gates to fly open if you die sinning... period.

      September 13, 2011 at 12:23 am | Report abuse |
  2. ashley

    OK to all the attack ashley fans, im going to bed for the night- I've already wrote a book in this discussion trying to explain my beliefs so if you missed something scan back through- im over it

    September 13, 2011 at 12:09 am | Report abuse |
  3. pimpson

    Good move. Next they should ban gays.

    September 13, 2011 at 12:17 am | Report abuse |
  4. talulah


    I just cast a spell of your children. . .they will be gay. . .lol. . .

    September 13, 2011 at 12:21 am | Report abuse |
    • ashley

      lol wow that is so cool can my lil girls get unicorns 2?? ahahahahahaaa

      September 13, 2011 at 12:24 am | Report abuse |
  5. talulah

    then would they ban you pimpson

    September 13, 2011 at 12:23 am | Report abuse |
  6. The Lady

    Why is my comment not showing up? That's when you know you've told the truth and hit a nerve. Go North Carolina!!!

    September 13, 2011 at 12:41 am | Report abuse |
  7. gung hoe

    In the animal kingdom should a animal show gay traits it usually segregated and quite often killed

    September 13, 2011 at 1:05 am | Report abuse |
    • Atlantan


      September 13, 2011 at 1:37 am | Report abuse |
    • pete

      grow-ups like to use something called "citations" so people know they are telling the truth and the things they say aren't just coming from a place of bigotry.

      September 13, 2011 at 1:46 am | Report abuse |
    • le canada

      wow, the product of an american education.....

      September 13, 2011 at 3:19 am | Report abuse |
    • SdaFlt

      Good concept, but we are not the "animals" as you describe. I assume you resort to the term , "Birds of a feather flock together"? Maybe blacks should just be with blacks, and those with an IQ of 25 (such as you) should remain together. If you want to resort to biology, please do more research. I know I've been gay since age 4... 30 now and I'm a lean, tough, fighting machine, often hit on by women. No thanks, though... what's the problem???

      September 13, 2011 at 3:24 am | Report abuse |
  8. Steve

    Gay marriage is legal in New York state which has no residency requirement to obtain a marriage license. Once DOMA is overturned, such marriages must be respected by all other states. This will effectively make gay marriage legal for anyone who can afford to travel to New York. Those who oppose gay marriage have lost at their attempt to deny their fellow citizens equal rights.

    September 13, 2011 at 1:10 am | Report abuse |
  9. WOT

    Marriage should be ban for all! In this world today, Children are hurt by divorce!

    September 13, 2011 at 1:27 am | Report abuse |
  10. David

    I am happily married to another man and just happen to live in NC. It was not legally accepted or offered, so we went somewhere else for the experience and spent our money in a more tolerant place. You speak of budget deficits...well, then why are you pushing away money from licenses, ceremonies, hotel rooms and parties? Ban what you like but it's a free country. It's a pity that NC will again be one of last states to catch up with the rest of the country.

    September 13, 2011 at 1:44 am | Report abuse |
    • SdaFlt

      Why their government wants to limit people's rights is what I am concerned about. Next will be other civil liberties... maybe the right to bear arms!!!

      September 13, 2011 at 3:37 am | Report abuse |
  11. jikoy "oil" koy

    FREE Oil Trading Room: The time has come for me personally to demonstrate the secret code for FREE twice per month in REAL TIME inside my online trading room. I will show that I know which direction oil is going to go over and over and over again without end. You are all invited to watch a scientist demonstrate how the oil market trades via a computer program. Google Oil Trading Academy to learn more.

    September 13, 2011 at 1:51 am | Report abuse |
  12. Hmm

    Well, we're making progress. By that I mean that at least it's a state (my state) dealing with the issue instead of the federal government. The federal government shouldn't be able to dictate what is marriage. I don't think the state governments should either, but baby steps. I don't understand how it came to be that the government controlled what does and does not dictate marriage. I believe equal rights for all American citizens includes all Americans and marriage, but that's just me.

    September 13, 2011 at 2:10 am | Report abuse |
  13. dee

    This is so funny, NC will always be intolerant and never be progressive. Why would any industry move there, or for that matter why would any gay person live there? It is a state with bigotry ingrained in it's roots and this will never change.

    September 13, 2011 at 2:45 am | Report abuse |
  14. gung hoe

    And the bible can be usEd as a weapon, d

    September 13, 2011 at 3:03 am | Report abuse |
  15. gung hoe

    And the bible can be usEd as a weapon, Weapon of love

    September 13, 2011 at 3:05 am | Report abuse |
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