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. banasy©


    Don't like gay marriages?
    Then don't marry one.

    September 12, 2011 at 4:03 pm | Report abuse |
  2. ThinkingMan

    Another state where the typical family tree looks like lightning forks. I hear you like to sing Happy Birthday Uncle Dad.

    September 12, 2011 at 4:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Huh

      Good to see you're fighting ignorance with more ignorance.

      September 12, 2011 at 4:10 pm | Report abuse |
  3. saopaco

    Thank goodness that we have the GOP to tell us right from wrong and how to live our lives. We are just not qualified to make these sorts of decisions on our own.

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

    Gay won't go away, so open your eyes a little.

    September 12, 2011 at 4:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • The Oracle

      oh yes you will! you will go away, and you will not have the last werd, and you are on the losing side and have already loss the battle. historically, you will be looked upon as bygone and a non issue. adios!

      September 12, 2011 at 8:08 pm | Report abuse |
  5. CarolinaTim

    Even if it makes the ballot, I don't think it has a very good chance of passing. You might find support for it "out east"... and possibly in the far western mountains of the state... but the cities (Charlotte, Raleigh/Durham, Asheville, Wilmington, Greensboro) will probably be 60/40 against it. A lot of it will come down to whether African-American churches speak out against it.

    And for all of you hating on NC for this... didn't the high and mighty people of California pass a gay-marriage ban before its courts overturned it??? Is "Dueling Banjos" the state song out there as well????? HMMMMMMMMMMMM?

    September 12, 2011 at 4:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Equality

      Yes, California voted on Prop 8. Passed my a thin margin of 51 to 49. The small margin was due to the confusing language that opponents of gay marriage put on the ballot. Yes on Prop 8 means no on gay marriage and No on Prop 8 means yes on gay marriage. If you weren't following the issue closely, you can easily mistaken and vote yes on Prop 8 thinking that you supported gay marriage.

      September 12, 2011 at 4:26 pm | Report abuse |
  6. saopaco

    I say we give 'em North Carolina, then.

    September 12, 2011 at 4:07 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Joe

    The gays do have several states they can live in. It's called the state of fear. The state of hate. The state of misery. The state of discrimination. But of course for people like you, to speak out against these things is equated to "flaunting," as if the gays were low-end street-dates working your pristine neighborhood.

    September 12, 2011 at 4:09 pm | Report abuse |
  8. radicalwillie

    Oh the hypocrisy. These backwoods okies have no qualms about mating with their own family members or farm animals, but heaven forbid two people who love each other be allowed to form a legal bond.

    September 12, 2011 at 4:09 pm | Report abuse |
  9. gavin

    Put it to a vote. If the people of North Carolina want it they will vote for it. If they don't, they will vote against it. That's the way a democracy works, folks. Love it or leave it.

    September 12, 2011 at 4:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Paul

      actually that isn't the way OUR democracy works. We have many protections for minorities in this country because otherwise people could vote to remove a small group of people's rights all the time, or even an individuals rights. How would you like it if a state voted to remove all your rights to own property? I mean we live in a democracy right? So it would be all good then huh?

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

      Let's put your family situation to a vote then. I'm just itching to tell other adults how to live their lives.

      September 12, 2011 at 4:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • ty

      ignorance and prejudice should not be voted upon. do u understand that idea. we should not let ignorance decide an issue. oh it sounds DEMOCRATIC to let the people decie but it is just fear and ignorance on a ballot. in the middle of the lat century it was ILLEGAL for blacks and whites to marry in some states. if it had been put to a ballot test it would hav ebeen upheld. woman caould not vote so if it went to a abllot test, they never woould have ebnn allowed in many states.even th fool sarah palin had libert and justice for all on her tour bus..that means all

      September 12, 2011 at 4:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Matt

      So should we also put a ballot measure on banning marriage between blacks and whites? Maybe we should put a ballot measure taking away women's right to vote? This is not how a democracy works. You do not allow the majority to take away basic rights from the minority.

      September 12, 2011 at 5:43 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Bruce

    Why doesn't the country follow its own advice: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

    Where is the equality and happiness?

    September 12, 2011 at 4:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gail D

      nowhere says persuit of other men

      September 12, 2011 at 4:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Guest

      So Gail it's all fine and good unless it clashes with your own thinking, then use semantics to try and justify your own thinking and your own want to control how someone else lives their life?

      September 12, 2011 at 10:01 pm | Report abuse |
  11. GayChristianConservativeinNC

    Please I hope they do ban it because otherwise I will be too tempted to leave my wife and marry my secret gay lover.

    September 12, 2011 at 4:10 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Mad Dog

    Let the Southern States secede and become part of Mexico. that's where they belong!!!!

    September 12, 2011 at 4:10 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Sandy

    WHO CARES I know there are more important things to worry about with this country than whether or not gay people can get married!! I'm not gay and I really don't care who marries who, but if we spent more time trying to figure out the problems that this country has and it definitely have some big ones we would be in so much better shape than we are now!! But now we have to worry about how someone else is going to live their life!!! REALLY!!! Give it a rest!!

    September 12, 2011 at 4:12 pm | Report abuse |
  14. d'Amileau B

    Yes on Amendment, if it includes "all divorce is illegal for christian sanctioned marriages." I would vote for that. Let's just keep it real.

    September 12, 2011 at 4:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mateo

      Right on. But dang it I sure hope the US Supreme Court doesn't go meddling in our affairs again. Now them people can marry white people. So what if we're all American citizens if we don't agree with you then you shouldn't have the same legal rights as me. Becasue us down here don't no the difference between a civil marriage and a religious one. Bigotry is all the same to us.

      September 12, 2011 at 4:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • JW

      And while we are at it, we can add fornication back as a crime, along with adultery. Sure there are plenty more to add, to make the state comply with the Bible and prevent sinning.

      September 12, 2011 at 4:20 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Venmaker1

    Don't get too excited, while this may pass, NC is still far more progressive then you would like. This amendment is being offered not out of doing the right thing but to drive voter participation in 2012. Christian are being used.

    September 12, 2011 at 4:13 pm | Report abuse |
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