CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Two of the leading speech-makers in last week's debate at the North Carolina legislature over a proposed statewide referendum on gay marriage debated the measure again Wednesday at the University of North Carolina law school.
House Majority Leader Paul Stam and Minority Whip Rick Glazier went back and forth for almost an hour on the constitutional implications and legal merits of banning same-sex marriages in North Carolina.
“All persons are created equal, but that doesn’t mean three people can claim to be married,” said Stam, R-Apex, adding that limits on marriage are common.
"No one here would say two 3-year-olds can marry or that I can intentionally kidnap somebody and have a valid marriage," he said. "The question is, if there are going to be limits, what are they."
Glazier, D-Fayetteville, called the proposed amendment "one of the most personally intrusive and extreme laws in the country." Writing a ban of same-sex marriages into the state constitution would create second-class citizens and could lead to other restrictions of their rights.
"I would think the Founding Fathers are rolling over in their graves, thinking that’s how we amend the constitution in this state," he said.
"If we’re really concerned about the protection of marriage," Glazier said, "maybe we ought to do something about domestic violence and child abuse and poverty because I think they far more affect marriage than the gay couple down the street."
Stam said the amendment, if approved by voters next May, would also outlaw domestic partnerships and civil unions. He said a state law passed 15 years ago "was meant to" have that effect, but in fact, the 1996 law does not address non-marriage unions.
The referendum is on the primary ballot instead of the November 2012 general election because of Gov. Beverly Perdue, Stam said.
Perdue never encouraged legislators to put the amendment on any ballot, said spokeswoman Chris Mackey, who didn't deny that the governor was involved in the date change.
"Moving the amendment to the May ballot removed one of the governor's objections, which was that the Republicans were using the constitutional amendment process to tilt the 2012 general election," Mackey said.
Perdue hasn't publicly said whether she supports the amendment.
A May vote could help the amendment pass because many Republican voters will turn out to choose candidates for president and governor, while Democrats don't have any high-profile primaries to draw them to the polls.
The UNC Center on the Law and Government hosted the discussion between Stam and Glazier, and an overflow crowd of about 250 students attended. Protesters also staged a demonstration outside the law school.