Senate vote puts marriage amendment issue to the voters

Posted September 13, 2011

— North Carolina voters will get to decide next May whether a ban on same-sex marriage needs to be written into the state constitution after the state Senate voted Tuesday to put the issue on the ballot.

After the 90-minute debate, Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger issued this statement, "We look forward to eight months of healthy debate before voters decide this issue at the polls.”

The state House voted 75-42 Monday in favor of the measure. North Carolina is the only state in the Southeast without such a provision. 

Senate puts marriage question to the voters Senate puts marriage question to the voters

The debate began just after noon, and Democrats quickly spoke out against the move. Sen. Josh Stein, D-Wake, said, "Most of us have gay neighbors, co-workers, friends and family members. Know that if you vote for this amendment, you will cause them pain."

"Surely we are better than this," Senate Minority Leader Martin Nesbitt said. "We can treat each other with respect and not be down here in a special session trying to find somebody that we can tread on and try to make the people forget that they are all going broke."

Stein opened his comments by asking, "What are we doing here?" He noted the daily cost to taxpayers of the session and the need for aid in eastern counties still cleaning up from Hurricane Irene.

“With the state of our economy, we do not have the luxury to make anyone feel unwelcome. We need those jobs," Stein said.

Gov. Bev Perdue expressed disappointment Tuesday that the legislature is spending time on such an emotionally charged and divisive issue. Supporters of the ban and those against it rallied in Raleigh as the lawmakers met inside. 

Republican Buck Newton made one of the most passionate pleas in support of the amendment. 

"This is not about trying to distract from the economy," he said. "This is about an important social issue that we all need to face up to and that we need to allow the public to decide."

Newton said a constitutional amendment would protect North Carolina from judges outside the state who would define marriage differently.

"I wish that this did not have to be in the constitution in order to protect what we all know is a marriage," he said. "But we have reached that point."

He accused some of his Democratic colleagues of favoring same-sex marriage and looking to appeal the state law that bans it.

Berger concluded the discussion, saying, "There is one thing that I don't think anyone can disagree with. If we don't go ahead and address this issue now, it will continue to come up. It is time to let the people of this state decide."

Legislators on both sides of the debate mentioned the weight of history and the consideration of future generations in their comments. Many cited relationships with children or grandchildren as the reason for their stance.

State law already bans same-sex marriage, and opponents of a constitutional amendment contend that it is unnecessary. The Chapel Hill Town Council approved a resolution Monday night affirming that view.

Amendment supporters argue that putting it in the constitution would help the state against challenges from same-sex couples married in the six states that allow the unions.

Marriage amendment campaign begins Marriage amendment campaign begins

Advocates on both sides launched their campaign messages as soon as the measure had passed. 

"We're going to start organizing and preparing to fight this at the ballot," said Alex Miller of Equality NC. "I'm hopeful attitudes are changing to the point where the majority of the folks who are going to come out and vote in May will be opposed to this."

Sen. Jim Forrester, who proposed the amendment and has been waiting to see it put before the people was equally confident. 

"I bet 65 percent of people will vote for the amendment of the constitution," he said.


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  • LovemyPirates Sep 14, 2011

    Not only should civil rights not be up to popular vote, this will be on the May primary ballot. There will be way more on one party (Republicans) voting in this election because this party will have to select someone to represent them in the Presidential Election than the other party (Democrats) who will nominate Obama. If there is no one to run against Obama then why would those supports show up to vote? Those voting in May election will not be a true representation of the voting public of the state. This is an underhanded manner in which to handle this matter. Of course, my guess is Democrats show up in droves to vote down this amendment.

  • gnewsome1 Sep 14, 2011

    "For reasons already presented, I believe Perry has a strong likelihood of being upheld at least on intermediate scrutiny."
    Perry is still pending before SCOTUS. Strauss v. Horton upheld the validity of 8. The 9th circuit overturned Walker's ruling. In Hollingsworth v. Perry the ruling of SCOTUS was 5-4 along ideological lines. Its ruling was 8-1 on the temporary stay. Walker did not recuse himself even though he is an admitted homosexual. His position on the matter was subsequently upheld. It is folly to predict how SCOTUS may or may not rule.

  • sarahsoandso Sep 14, 2011

    gwk8845: "I thought voting was how we decided things in the United States. Why are people opposed to this vote?"

    Because this is a civil rights issue that is being treated with flippancy and disrespect by the state of North Carolina. The goverment and the people have no right to deny ANYone ANYthing simply because it disagrees with their own personal set of values and morals.

  • sarahsoandso Sep 14, 2011

    For everyone claiming that this is a moral issue and not a civil rights issue... It is not the government's place to dictate to the American people what is moral. Furthermore, it is not the government's place in pass laws based on whether they 'believe' and issue is 'moral' or not.

    This is a civil rights issue. Morality is in the hands of the individual. It is not your place to to tell people whose lifestyles you don't agree with that they can't choose their own moral code. It's none of your business. And it certainly isn't the government's business.

    I have never seen such a slew of busybodies in my life. You're straight? You're married, have kids? That's great. More power to you. I'm happy you're happy with the life you chose. Now leave everybody else alone.

  • Elvisisdead Sep 14, 2011

    Why isn't a licensed civil union enough...why does it have to be a license to marry? AffirmativeDiversity

    Unfortunately, this amendment will make civil unions unconstitutional as well.

  • Follow_The_Money27617 Sep 14, 2011

    I thought voting was how we decided things in the United States. Why are people opposed to this vote?
    September 14, 2011 8:01 a.m.
    Ignore Report abuse

    We dont vote on equality. The Constitution took care of that. You do know what that is correct?

  • carolinarox Sep 14, 2011

    I'm assuming you're talking about Democrats with this comment...since Republicans have and were long on record wanting and fighting for a Civil Rights Act...after all wasn't it over 50 years ago that President Eisenhower introduced and got passed the first Civil Rights Act...and had it not been for the opposition from the Democrats, particularly the Southern Democratic Governors, it would have encompassed more

    Because the Democratic party supported the Civil Rights Act of 1964 many, many white Democrats switched to the Republican party in NC. This is when the careers of Walter Scott and Jim Gardner began to take off.

  • goozleboy Sep 14, 2011

    In reviewing these comments, I have learned much about the hate which continues to be in NC. What really disturbs me, though, is how some blacks wish to see this situation as so much different from the black's struggle for civil rights. How hypocritical to be siding with many stemming from families who would have killed you for breathing within this century.
    It is a shame that a majority vote is allowed in such a matter. This approach is akin to allowing members of a KKK meeting decide whether a black man should be hanged from a golden or silver rope. Sick!
    How truly stupid we are as a society when we fight over such matters while the government continues to ram it in deeper and harder! I am glad I will be at work when the obamination comes to the triangle area today, backing up traffic more than even the NCDOT is capable of. I wish it would stay in DC!

  • Bill Brasky Sep 14, 2011

    "No. Purchased votes are good for everyone."

    Bart Meister, ACORN did receive plenty of fraudulent application. Thats because they were paying their employees commission off of everyone they got...really stupid move on their part.

    Prove me wrong, but there wasn't a single reported case of anyone voting during the elections with a fraudulent registration as a result of ACORN.

  • Bill Brasky Sep 14, 2011

    "I'm assuming you're talking about Democrats with this comment...since Republicans have and were long on record wanting and fighting for a Civil Rights Act"
    I'll also add that a higher number and percentage of Northern Democrats voted for the Civil Rights Act of 1964, then Northern Republicans. Both parties passed the law in the North by a huge majority. The voting on this bill had little to do with politics and all to with the South being racist. Here are the official numbers:

    The original House version:

    Southern Democrats: 7–87 (7%–93%)
    Southern Republicans: 0–10 (0%–100%)
    Northern Democrats: 145-9 (94%–6%)
    Northern Republicans: 138-24 (85%–15%)
    The Senate version:

    Southern Democrats: 1–20 (5%–95%)
    Southern Republicans: 0–1 (0%–100%) Northern Democrats: 45-1 (98%–2%) Northern Republicans: 27-5 (84%–16%)