NC House approves same-sex union ban

Posted September 12, 2011
Updated September 13, 2011

State House lawmakers voted 75-42 today to approve a proposed constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage and civil unions.

The three-hour debate, largely dominated by the measure's opponents, was passionate and emotional. 

Gay and lesbian people "are yours and my friends, relatives, pastors, coworkers, church and temple members, sons and daughters, nieces, nephews, granddaughters and grandsons," pleaded Rep. Susan Fisher, D-Buncombe. "Why would we use the constitution to take away the basic human rights of our family members, loved ones and colleagues?”

Rep. Pricey Harrison, D-Guilford, told the House her sister is in a longtime same-sex relationship and is raising a daughter. “I don’t know why anyone in this chamber thinks they can tell her she can’t marry the love of her life,” Harrison said, her voice breaking.

Other Democrats argued that banning the recognition of any domestic union apart from heterosexual marriage could interfere with the rights of unwed heterosexual couples as well as their same-sex counterparts. They argued the measure could interfere with domestic violence laws, trusts and wills, adoptions and custody agreements, even domestic partner and Medicaid benefits.

And others said the amendment would set off a "culture war" that would embarrass the state on the national stage, discouraging job creation from companies with gay and lesbian owners, managers, and employees. "We’re saying don’t bring your job to NC, don’t bring your investment to NC. We don’t want it unless you passed our test," said Rep. Larry Hall, D-Durham. "You need not apply to bring jobs to NC."

Republican supporters said none of those claims are true. Rep. Dale Folwell, R-Forsyth, argued that businesses don't decide where to locate based on gay marriage laws. And Rep. Paul Stam, R-Wake, insisted a clause in the amendment protects "contracts" between "private parties," which would cover domestic partner benefits businesses might choose to offer. (Municipal benefits, however, would be ended by the bill, if offered on the basis of a romantic relationship. Both Chapel Hill and Durham offer such benefits to LGBT employees.) 

Stam could not say whether NC's existing ban on same-sex marriages has ever been challenged. But he said a constitutional amendment is needed because of challenges that have happened in other states. "It would be very possible for a judge in NC, so disposed, to decide that same-sex marriage has been in our constitution all along. We cannot upset the settled expectations of our people about what marriage is and what it’s not," Stam said.

Stam says the measure will also ban civil unions. “What this is saying is, no matter what you call it, if it’s an intimate relationship connected with the family, the only relationship that’s recognized in NC is that of one man and one woman.”

Opponents of the measure say the rights of a minority should never be put to a popular vote. For example, they argued, what if NC had allowed white citizens to vote on interracial marriage? But supporters of the ban reject the comparison of gay marriage with civil rights.

"There are occasions when decisions are bigger than the 170 people who serve in the House or the Senate," said Folwell. "The way we deal with controversial issues is that we vote on them. No one is trying to politicize this."  

The final House vote on the amendment was 75-42. 65 Republicans and 10 Democrats voted for the measure: the Democrats were Reps. Pierce, Floyd, Graham, Brisson, Hill, Owens, Crawford, Goodman, Spear, and McGuirt. The rest of the Democrats voted against it, and two Republicans opted not to vote.  

The measure now goes to the Senate. If it can get thirty votes there, it goes to the polls next May. The governor does not have veto power over constitutional amendments.


This blog post is closed for comments.

Oldest First
View all
  • rcappsplb Sep 14, 2011

    I believe in God. And I believe the bible has been interpreted in about as many different ways lately as the Constitution. "Do not judge, or you'll be judged harsher." (Remember that part folks?) Its not that I approve/disapprove of samesex marriages-but I will vote YES. My YES stands for the rights these individuals have to live their life as they choose as long as it does not hurt others. I'm not trying to be PC, I'm just tired of people spewing THEIR version of the Constitution in my face. If something goes against the "Good Ole Boy" mentality of the Southern Bible Belt, then our State Govenment shouts "Take it to the people of the NC. They won't let stuff like this pass." Well bring it on fellows - me and many other white voter chose Obama. I'm getting tired of being told what I'm suppose to stand for just because I live in the South. And only in the NC would someone bring up "inter-racial marriages". For Gods Sakes, give that a rest. The south lost remember? Blacks, Hispanics, Asi

  • matthewwood007 Sep 14, 2011

    This an old and silly means to get the vote out. I cant wait to see the signs in 2012 that will have Obama in a Hitler mustache and Buckwheat hair, marrying 2 dudes in front of a mosque.
    Just what we need s legislators taking on non-sensical crud which will do nothing except imbue them with an even more indignant "holier than thou" attitude

  • OnlyTheBestWillDo Sep 13, 2011

    This is great! I can't wait to vote.

  • familyandamerica Sep 13, 2011

    gmcjetpilot: Petty, trivial, irrelevant, and illogical to *you*. I suspect it's somewhat different when people are rallying for a law that invalidates your life and love. Your ignorance (there are numerous religions that couldn't care less whether you're homosexual or not) and your ranting are on the wrong side of history. I have no doubt you'll fight. I have no doubt you'll lose. In the end you'll be remembered by future generations as well as any bigot. That's your legacy.

  • dromano Sep 13, 2011

    There are too many homophobic in this state, lets wake up and become a state that is up to date with the times. Did you all not realize that there is even thought that many of our honored bible members including Jesus and Michelangelo may have been homosexual? Come on NC wake up and shed your homophobic way of thinking. As for not having your children exposed to homosexuality, well folks I have eye opening information for you, your children are more open minded then you are and most likely already have gay friends, and this does not mean that your kids are going to turn gay. But remember if you gave them the gay gene at conception, you have a gay child, now does that make him or her a bad person and should they be restricted of their rights? You decide..

  • gmcjetpilot Sep 13, 2011

    All the arguments against the amendment are petty, trivial, irrelevant, illogical, pedantic, petulant, argumentative. Leave religion out of it. If you're a "practicing homosexual" I know of no religion that approves that. You're not following any Judeo Christian religion. This is a social issue, and it is a culture war. The secular liberal atheist homosexual agenda would LOVE to "embarrass." Not embarrassed and will fight! I have a vision for my state & America; it doesn't revolve around homosexuality which isn't natural, normal or healthy, by definition aberrant, possibly a mental illness. This is not about love but diminishing Judeo Christian values and secular POWER! Two dudes will never be Mom & Dad. Kids need two parents of opposite gender, a MOM & Dad! Kids DO NOT need to be exposed to homosexuality. This would open the door to open homosexual teachers! Gays go live together, sign legal papers giving half your stuff and legal power over to another person, like you are married!

  • ezgr8er Sep 12, 2011

    Defense of Marriage - really with a divorce rate pushing 50% and higher for 2nd and 3rd marriages?! How many men are living polygamist-like lifestyles already? Wife and kids at home with a female co-worker and/or craigslist cutie on the side. Oh yeah, that's called adultery. Protect the family structure - really? Women having multiple children with multiple 'baby daddies' and those men are absent from their children's lives. I'm not sure anyone would 'choose' to be homosexual. You either are or you aren't. Why would anyone choose to be homosexual and face ridicule and hatred, possible estrangment from family, religious folks telling you God hates you? When do straight folks make the decision to be straight? All through history, groups of people have been blamed for society's ills - Jews, lepers, African-Americans, Muslims - I guess it's the gays' turn. All the folks cherry picking Scripture need to reference quotes such as Romans 3:23 or John 3:16. God is love (1 John 4:8)