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Senate to begin debate Monday on marriage amendment

Posted September 9, 2011
Updated September 10, 2011

UPDATED: See below.

Senate leaders will start their debate on the proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex unions Monday afternoon. But they didn’t want anyone to know about it.

According to the public notices released today, the Senate Judiciary 1 committee will be meeting Monday on H61, “Speaker/Pro Tem Term Limits” - a proposal to limit the numbers of years House and Senate members can serve as leaders of their chambers. 

But a new version of the bill leaked to WRAL Friday night shows the bill the committee will take up Monday has absolutely nothing to do with term limits. The new H61 is an amended version of the constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.

You can try to look it up at the legislature’s website, but you won’t find it there.

Timeline

At 4:31 Friday afternoon, the Senate Judiciary 1 clerk sent out public notice that the committee would meet Monday at 1:30 to discuss "H61, Speaker/Pro Tem Term Limits." Public comment, the notice said, would be taken, but only if the public showed up between 1:00pm and 1:30pm in Legislative Office Building Rm. 643 to sign up.

At 4:42 pm, Senate staff attorney Susan Sitze sent all Senate Judiciary 1 members the new marriage-amendment version of the bill to be discussed Monday afternoon. This is what's called a "proposed committee substitute," or PCS. It's not available to the public. 

At 5:25 pm, 40 minutes later, the Senate Calendar was sent to the public and posted on the website, again listing the topic of Monday’s Senate Judiciary 1 meeting as “Speaker/Pro Tem Term Limits.”

'Not trying to hide'

Senate Leader Phil Berger’s Chief of Staff Jim Blaine said there was no attempt to hide anything. “Under Senate rules, we don’t have to notice meetings until midnight the day of the meeting, and at the same time send out a PCS.”

Then why tell the public you’re talking about term limits Monday, when you’re really planning to debate the marriage amendment?

“Well, that’s the name of the bill,” Blaine answered.

“We are in no way, shape or form trying to hide this,” Blaine said. “If we wanted to sneak this through, we’d put it out Monday at noon. If you notice the members of the committee on Friday, it’s public domain.”

But the state’s open meetings law requires that the public, not just meeting attendees, be informed about what their elected officials are voting on. How would they know you’re planning to debate this bill?

“You have it, don’t you?” Blaine asked. “I think they will be given every opportunity to weigh in."

The only reason I have it, I explained, is because it was leaked to me by a third party – not because the public was informed about it.

So how would the public would know what they’re planning to vote on? If the purpose of the state’s open meetings law is to inform the public about elected officials are planning to do, why tell the public you’re going to be voting on something completely different?

“I think you’re down the wrong track on this. It will be in the public domain well in advance of the meeting," Blaine said.

How far in advance? Blaine wouldn’t say, except to note that Senate rules require notice by midnight the day of the meeting.

“We have exceeded the requirements,” Blaine repeated. “This is the same process that takes place for Senate committee meetings all year."

It's fair to note that in the past, Democrats have used this tactic, too - but not on anything as controversial or high-profile as a constitutional amendment on marriage. In comparison, House GOP leaders have generally avoided this tactic: when they've rolled out PCS with different content, they've noted it on the public meeting announcement.  

UPDATE: At 2:45pm Saturday, the Senate Judiciary 1 clerk sent out a corrected meeting notice for Monday's meeting, with the following note: 

Corrected: * Please note that the language regarding term limits has been replaced with language pertaining to the marriage amendment. A copy of the new language was sent out with the original notice and is also attached to this notice.*

This is not entirely true. I received the original public notice Friday afternoon, and the "new language" was not attached to it.  But a copy of the new bill has been attached to today's announcement. It's the same document that was leaked to WRAL last night. 

20 Comments

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  • CaniacNC Sep 12, 6:10 p.m.

    The most interesting fact of these Defense of Marriage Amendments, the states in the South that have them also have the HIGHEST DIVORCE RATES in the country. Maybe this amendment should make it harder to get married, harder to have children and harder to get divorced. We need our state legislators to work on building JOBS not pitting people against people. This is nothing more than state sponsored discrimination. As a straight woman, a marriage of two people that happen to be of the same sex in no way interferes with my ability to marry. NONE.

  • OnlyTheBestWillDo Sep 12, 4:31 p.m.

    http://ncvalues.org/marriage/common-myths-about-the-marriage-amendment/

  • pmarshall14 Sep 12, 1:06 p.m.

    To MS Hood: as stated by F. Benedetti in the Winston Salem Journal
    "We only seek participation in non-religious ceremonies; simply the civil right to enter into a legal contract. Each religious belief can determine whether to recognize or even take part in any other ceremony. Just as the state doesn't dictate which marriage a religion performs or recognizes, religions should not dictate to the state who can get a civil marriage license." Im not asking for your permission, nor your interpretation of God.

  • marktroll Sep 12, 1:04 p.m.

    ah yes, in California it was a righteous movement to have THE PEOPLE vote on such an issue! The people supported it, "BRING THE VOTE TO THE PEOPLE" is what the LGBT crowds wanted!!! LET the PEOPLE decide is what was "right" and "fair" in other states, why not now?????????

  • mshood7 Sep 12, 12:27 p.m.

    I don't want to be made a partaker in something that God has not ordained. For judgement surely will follow sooner or later. It's a choice!

  • mshood7 Sep 12, 12:24 p.m.

    This is not what God had in mind! Those who ignore the order that men and women shold follow to have a more perfect union and produce offspring that worship the living God and Creator of all living things on heavens and earth is to be praised. Not that HE wants to restict us but knows how we were made in HIS image and the author and finisher of our LOVE and faith. Anything else is unacceptable except maybe to those who are selfish and into themselves so much that they have exchanged the meaning of love for lusts!

  • jakegoad Sep 12, 11:08 a.m.

    If they really wanted this to be up to the peoples vote, they'd be voting on whether or not to recognize marriages or not, not whether or not to double ban them. The choice between ban and double ban is a far cry from the people's choice.

    Our state is recovering from hurricane damage, we have a painful budget, and soaring unemployment, and instead of focusing on those issues they are spending $50,000 a day to bring the legislature in session for this? Talk about priorities. Where are the jobs?

  • OnlyTheBestWillDo Sep 12, 10:22 a.m.

    This is great! Let's vote!

  • geoherb1 Sep 12, 9:08 a.m.

    "same sex marriage is ridiculous"

    If you don't like same sex marriage, then don't marry someone of the same sex. For inexplicable reasons, it works for me and my husband, in spite of what "Dr." Johnny "Two Locks" Hunter says.

  • OpinionatedMama Sep 12, 8:33 a.m.

    I don't care what another couple does in the bedroom & if 2 men or 2 women want to spend their lives together it doesn't affect me and my life at all.

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