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Gay rights proponents arrested in state House

Posted June 2, 2011 3:19 p.m. EDT
Updated June 2, 2011 4:59 p.m. EDT

— Some proponents of gay rights were arrested Thursday after running out on the state House floor shouting "liberty and justice for all" while the chamber was in session.

The three protesters were with the North Carolina chapter of Get Equal, a political action group for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights, that opposes a constitutional amendment against gay marriage that is being considered in the General Assembly.

Those arrested Thursday were Jim Neal, an openly gay man who ran for the U.S. Senate in 2008, Angel Chandler, the group's state organizer, and Mary Counce.

About 200 people rallied against the bill outside the Legislature Thursday afternoon. If passed, it  would likely go to voters to decide on the issue in 2012.

Current state law already bans same-sex marriage, but amendment supporters say an “activist judge” could easily overturn the statute.

Last month, an estimated 2,000 people turned out for a rally in support of the Defense of Marriage Amendment, which Republican lawmakers have been trying for years to get on the ballot. They were met by a counter protest of the North Carolina Religious Coalition for Marriage Equality, which spoke out against the bill.

The amendment’s Senate sponsor, Sen. Jim Forrester, R-Gaston, has said that he’s been promised by Senate leader Phil Berger that the amendment will be voted on in September during a special session devoted entirely to constitutional amendments.

Thursday's arrests mark the second set in as many weeks.

NAACP state president Rev. William Barber was among a group arrested last Tuesday after shouting messages from the House gallery.

The group was voicing opposition to proposed budget cuts they said would have a devastating impact on education, unemployment, voting activities and other state programs.