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. Hugo

    How is man or woman defined in North Carolina with respect to a XX XY chimera?

    September 13, 2011 at 3:07 am | Report abuse |
  2. jerry5555

    Every single time the people of this wonderful country have voted on allowing gay marriages, they have voted NOT to allow it; Every single time, in every single state, period! Get it through your heads, the vast majority in this country do not want gay marriages. It's the judges and politicians that have their own agenda that are allowing a few states to allow gay marriages, not the people! The liberal media does a great job of building a fake image that falsely potrays the citizens wanting gay marriages. Not so. EVERY SINGLE STATE THAT HAS EVER VOTED ON IT HAS VOTED AGAINST GAY MARRIAGE!

    September 13, 2011 at 3:28 am | Report abuse |
    • SdaFlt

      I guess you believe Segregation between black and whites in the pre 60's era was right as well, just because a lot of ignorant people wanted things a certain way. I'll make this clear: Just because people want something (like drugs), does NOT make it OK or right.

      September 13, 2011 at 3:36 am | Report abuse |
    • ashley

      Jerry you are so right, and last night an atheist informed me of the two pagan symbols on our $ bill, so i googled pagan symbol on monday and found out so many amazing facts that truely show from the begining our country has been doomed and founded on evil instead of christianity and even currently today it is the higher authority and officials that are apart of freemasonry 'clan'... it's pretty scary how close this world is coming to the end, and morons aren't smart enough to look at history.. especially since we know it repeats itself..... I can only work on saving me, and my families soul before judgement day. And Sda get off the race thing, 40 years ago there were ignorant racist doing ignorant things yes, and those people may be our grandparents, bt it aint us! so get over it!!!!!

      September 13, 2011 at 11:33 am | Report abuse |
    • ashley

      I meant pagan symbol on money

      September 13, 2011 at 11:34 am | Report abuse |
  3. Godly Obama

    God is leading Obama and congress prays before each and every session. They know that God likes sodomy and gay marriage, and so are forcing God's ways on us. It's not fair. Where's the seperation of church and state?

    September 13, 2011 at 4:32 am | Report abuse |
  4. gay christian

    Gay sodomites are the healthiest men in America, especially us gay christians. Don't believe the lies. It's the celibate and the virgins who are spreading aids.

    September 13, 2011 at 5:25 am | Report abuse |
  5. patti28

    I find it amusing that with a divorce rate of over 50% the USA thinks "normal" marriage is so wonderful. I think we need some studies to determine whether gay marriages have a lower/higher/same level of divorce.

    September 13, 2011 at 7:10 am | Report abuse |
  6. WOT

    God made everything: Adam and Eve,Adam and Steve, Eve and Eva, so stop saying God did not make them from the Pulpit! Being GAY is not a Choice, when there are those who know who they are from early childhood; all races have gay people, ALL RACES! I am a Biologist, EMT,AA,BS,Ph D in GAYOLOGY !

    September 13, 2011 at 8:35 am | Report abuse |
  7. Litl Bit

    What the heck happened to FREE COUNTRY.....Why the heck are they aloud to tell us who we can and can't marry...What the heck is wrong with people these days, used to be bad back in the day about black and whites dating, now it seems to be getting worse and they feel like whites should be with whites, blacks with blacks, men with women and women with men. Who the hell cares, OH that's right, No one cares about others happiness anymore these days.

    September 13, 2011 at 8:45 am | Report abuse |
  8. John Bartlett

    Who's surprised? North Carolina was a slave state, supported segregation until the end and had laws against mixed race marriage. As they say a Leopard never changes its spots.

    September 13, 2011 at 9:09 am | Report abuse |
  9. DP

    Being a NC native I find this to be troubling. I grew up near Asheville, the last beacon of sanity in the western section of NC and feel that this law would set NC back by a wide margin. Why should the legality of marriage be up to the government in the first place? By its very term "marriage" is a religious conotation and therefore should not be judged by the government. Preventing two consenting adults from entertaining into this now recognized legal union would be a grave injutice to my fellow gays and lesbians of NC. For all those that are yelling "move to San Francisco", take a moment and put yourself in someone else's shoes. I was born and raised in Western North Carolina, how DARE you tell me to move from my land, where my family has been for nearly 250 years, because of the way God made me.

    September 13, 2011 at 9:18 am | Report abuse |
    • durundal

      it is not about the legality of marriage being up to government, it is about the forced erosion of government. The conservative element is trying to maintain 'purity' by forcibly shirking the responsibility of government to protect all views and orientations so that the religious base can have a chance to vote in their narrow minded interpretation of how the world works based off of a lack of economic understanding and their inability to understand social and cultural evolution. That being said, I have a feeling the federal government will come in and flip the decision should this measure happen to succeed.
      Personally I see all of this stupidity as a backlash from the same mental ailments that created the tea party, and part of a greater intellectual purge. Blind faith, and the lack of economic understanding is what is allowing this country to be brought to ruin- and it aint because of Obama

      September 13, 2011 at 10:06 am | Report abuse |
  10. FBMarky

    I wonder just how many jobs this will create? I mean, really. Are the people of this state so prosperous that they don't mind their lawmakers wasting time on organized discrimination? I guess pushing hatred on your population is more important than feeding them. Sad, indeed.

    September 13, 2011 at 9:22 am | Report abuse |
    • Joe

      Facebook cofounder and North Carolina native Chris Hughes left his state to found Facebook in California instead of North Carolina for exactly this reason. With a 10.1% unemployment rate, you think they'd be welcoming billion-dollar businesses instead of scaring them away.

      September 13, 2011 at 1:47 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Heads UpFolks

    I just have to wonder how long it will be before people Sue the state of North Carolina should this tragic amendment pass? There will be suits flying left and right over this one, for sure! If they have the money to place this piece of discriminatory legislation on the ballot, they surely will have to come up with the money to defend it and do without many other essential things in the meantime like fixing roads, infrastructure, schools, education matters, etc. But that's their wayward call as to money usage in that state. They'll be known as the Hate State from now on. Boycott North Carolina!

    September 13, 2011 at 9:42 am | Report abuse |
    • bob in NC

      No matter which way it goes there will be law suit. I don't care who marries who.

      September 13, 2011 at 11:26 am | Report abuse |
  12. ThisNeeds ToStop

    The South/South East continues to show its IGNORANCE and inability to live with the times. Especially the Republicans who want smaller government and to keep their hands off citizen's rights with less government intrusion. Yet they can't resist taking away the rights of citizens when it suits their convenience, speak about talking through both sides of their mouth! Sad that in this day and age we have to witness the Fanatical Extreme Right Wing doing this to a segment of its citizens! Now others can better understand what African-Americans went through in the Fifties when they were treated as second-class citizens and hosed down, denied rights, and shunned by Whites. This White superiority over those less fortunate with little or no voice is definitely Wrong and it just has to Stop!

    September 13, 2011 at 9:54 am | Report abuse |
    • LeadersFor GayRights

      You're very correct! Coretta Scott King, late wife of Dr. Martin Luther King believed in G-ays and Les-bians having EQUALITY! She demonstrated this most courageously!

      September 13, 2011 at 10:07 am | Report abuse |
  13. Athelda Ensley

    These issues are definitely going to show their faces in the 2012 election. Candidates need to prepare and be able to verbalize their stance.

    September 13, 2011 at 11:55 am | Report abuse |
  14. wayne

    ...of course, when the consitution is amended, NC will have to make a corresponding change to the Pledge of Allegiance......."with Liberty and Justice for SOME" !

    September 13, 2011 at 11:55 am | Report abuse |
  15. ashley

    I think it's pretty funny this is the only website covering the story that everyone is saying that the ban is wrong... you should view WITN or a NC news site... smallest percentage of pro-gays you have ever seen.... NC is a moral and traditional family state, and we tend to stay on that rd no matter what all the non-north carolinians judge us as. you say we are ignorant hicks when our school facilities are among the best in the country, and incase you don't notice typically our state stays off the drama map... we are fine being to ourselves so you can keep that few grand u might have vacationed with or even the few hundred thousand grand you may have bought a home with, because we will be fine! Promise!!!!!

    September 13, 2011 at 12:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Atheist

      Ashley..."NC is a moral and traditional family state"...i love this line...moral meaning the denegration of blacks until the Civil Rights Law...and traditional family state meaning you either go to church every sunday and worship and believe the biblical idea of a family or be ostracized by the other sheep....and you might want to get over the idea that NC education is so good...colleges, sure...but if they aren't funded privately, then a large number of those students come from outside the state...public schools were middle of the pack at best and that is probably a result of all of the transplanted northerners in the school system

      September 13, 2011 at 12:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joe

      And an unemployment rate of 10.1%, higher than the national average. Of course you could have had a billion-dollar business like Facebook, but you decided to scare off NC-native Chris Hughes to go found it in California instead. Well done!

      September 13, 2011 at 1:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • CatSh

      Ashley, Not only am I a Tarheel, but my family moved here BEFORE there was a US of A. One of my fore-fathers was among the first settlers on western NC. That you call this travesty 'moral' or 'tradition' shows you have no idea what those words mean. For those of us who have been here for centuries – move back to SC with the rest of the folks that want government to tell you right from wrong. I can do fine on my own to manage my family's morals and traditions.

      May 8, 2012 at 1:50 pm | Report abuse |
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