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. judasgoat

    didn't barack carry this state in 08......... these folks are pulling out all the stops to see to it that he doesn't carry it in 2012....

    September 12, 2011 at 3:38 pm | Report abuse |
  2. ProperVillain

    I suppose you go to church on sunday as well? Very "christian" sentiments expressed here.

    September 12, 2011 at 3:38 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Karen

    First, you have no business using "we" because you don't represent an entire state. Second, you should go look up how to spell "chiwawa" and where you can take some adult education courses. Then, come back here and try for an intelligent conversation.

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

      We don't need gay marriages here in NC PLEASE!!!

      September 12, 2011 at 4:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hugo

      Who is "you?"

      September 13, 2011 at 3:03 am | Report abuse |
  4. US Citizen

    DO IT!

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

      I guess JUSTICE is spelled JUST US in your little tiny pea brain.....NC is a great state just retarded government and some inhabitants.....

      September 12, 2011 at 3:49 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Lana

    OH and by the way, you might want to do a spell check since you're purporting to represent a whole state with your comments and learn how to spell. It's "chihuahua"!!!!

    September 12, 2011 at 3:39 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Anon

    Its really surprising how much religion is pushing for this. Why does it matter if 2 people marry or not? How does that effect another person at all? Its like of all sudden saying, you know what I hate left handed people. Lets ban left handedness cause they are just wierd. Normal people are Right Handed Dag Nab it.
    We need to pass an amendment you need to be this Smart to be in Politics, of course.... most likely every politician would get fired, but thats the only sensible solution.

    September 12, 2011 at 3:39 pm | Report abuse |

      Unfortunately left handedness is not a sin, so all those crazy left handers get off. But it's good to see this ban on the ballot. Hopefully it passes.

      September 12, 2011 at 3:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mike and Thom

      They do this ....We will never spend a dime in this State at their Beaches.........

      September 12, 2011 at 3:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • peanut

      MASTRODAMUS: divorce is a sin, as are relations before marriage. So, no more rights to unwed mothers or divorced people! SINNERS.

      September 12, 2011 at 3:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • blah9999

      The church thought that left handedness was a sin many generations ago, so they forced left handed people to be right handed. Maybe they'll reverse their opinions on gay marriage like they did with left handedness

      September 12, 2011 at 3:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Teddy

      I think the highly educated gay population should spend their overwhelming disposable income in some other state starting today.

      September 12, 2011 at 6:22 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Nat

    @Saboth who said

    "Me either. I'm still waiting for some kind of concrete study or something that shows how it is bad for our society. I want ONE conservative to explain to me what is wrong with gay "marriage". I'm talking about being married in the eyes of the state and federal, not a church. My rules: you have to explain it using facts, and you can't mention the Bible or God."

    You don't need a study since the evidence that gay marriage poses no threat to society exists in countires like Canada. Gay marriage has existed for over six years, gay couples adoption since 1996. The world hasn't ended and Canada is doing fine. However those against gay marriage for religious reasons never listen to facts. They talk about freedom etc, but are actually restricting freedom and wanting everyone to live by their rules. They're a lost cause.

    September 12, 2011 at 3:40 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Sue

    I bet that deep down, when you said "Chihuahua," you really meant "Mexican" or Black.

    September 12, 2011 at 3:40 pm | Report abuse |
  9. George Eubanks

    now, if we could just repeal a woman's right to vote and wear pants, all would be right with the world.

    September 12, 2011 at 3:41 pm | Report abuse |
  10. TJ

    So if a gay couple married in New York was to move to North Carolina, would the NC law void their marriage?

    September 12, 2011 at 3:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Freddy

      Why would anyone want to move to a place that doesn't want them?

      September 12, 2011 at 3:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • JT

      Freddy, places don't care about you one way or the other, it's the people that inhabit them.

      Oddly enough, over the holiday weekend, I happened to be in the Brevard/Asheville area and noticed quite a lot of 'happy' people in open. I wonder what part of the state specifically hates these people so much, as the western part seemed pretty cool with it.

      September 12, 2011 at 3:51 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Conky2012

    Lol at all the close minded hicks from N.C bashing gays on these comments. This would worry me more if it was a state that actually mattered. Hating someone because they are different to you is stupid, and is practiced by stupid people. I hate gay people cause my inbred parents raised me to do so! Yeeeeehaw, lower life forms.

    September 12, 2011 at 3:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • nativeNC

      wow....I never knew I live in a state that doesn't actually matter...and I was having such a good day!

      September 12, 2011 at 3:48 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Keith in SoJax

    How sad that the Republicans continue to speak for the most un-Christlike people with a superiority complex. Yet but another example why I left the party when I moved to NC in 1995. I've never felt the urge to return.

    September 12, 2011 at 3:41 pm | Report abuse |
  13. us1776

    This is typical "bible-belt".

    They cannot deal with the world as it really is.

    So they try to manipulate the lives of people to force them to live their "bible-fantasy" world.


    September 12, 2011 at 3:42 pm | Report abuse |
  14. erik60505

    North Carolina wake the heck up or go back to your caves!!!!! We still love you though. Have fun hating! We fruit loops think you are so cute when passing on such animal dysfunction to your youth. So next time you flood, no gay person should save you? A gay Dr. needs to stay away if he is the only one available? You would let your mother die? Your gay priest should not bless you or give you communion? Do you really really want to know how many gay people you really know? Silly Cute Humans!!! I just want to hug you and kiss you over and over!!!

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

      Let's not dis the whole state. It's the stupid people who don't know they're stupid that are backing this idea. There are also intelligent, compassionate, interesting people in NC who lead full lives and don't give a dog's damn who marries who.

      September 12, 2011 at 3:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ohnoes

      Yeah...Let's chill on this whole state stuff. We're not a freaking collective...

      September 12, 2011 at 4:05 pm | Report abuse |
  15. architecturestudent

    And where does one draw the line between hate and dislike? Discrimination is discrimination.

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

      Knowing right and wrong, and not condoning it has nothing to do with hate... just as God hates sin, not sinners.

      September 12, 2011 at 7:56 pm | Report abuse |
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