N.C. House passes bill on def­i­ni­tion of mar­riage

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - BY CH­ERYL WETZSTEIN

A North Carolina bill to al­low vot­ers a chance to de­fine mar­riage in their state con­sti­tu­tion goes to the state Se­nate af­ter pass­ing the state House.

The 75-42 vote fol­lowed a lengthy de­bate, dom­i­nated by op­po­nents of the amend­ment.

If it passes, it will go on the May 2012 bal­lot.

North Carolina is the only South­east­ern state with­out voter­ap­proved lan­guage in the state con­sti­tu­tion that de­fines mar­riage as the union of one man and one wo­man.

House Ma­jor­ity Leader Paul Stam, a Repub­li­can and lead spon­sor of the bill, led off the Sept. 12 de­bate by not­ing that one of the first laws in the state was that mar­riage was be­tween a man and a wo­man.

“This amend­ment needs to go be­fore the vot­ers be­cause they need to de­cide what is mar­riage, not judges in courts,” said Mr. Stam. Iowa, he added, once had a law like North Carolina’s that said mar­riage was only be­tween a man and a wo­man, but the Iowa Supreme Court struck it down and al­lowed gay mar­riage. “Folks, we are in the same sit­u­a­tion,” he said.

“Peo­ple want to vote” on this def­i­ni­tion of mar­riage, said Speaker Pro Tem­pore Dale R. Fol­well, an­other Repub­li­can sup- porter.

But for most of three hours, Demo­cratic mem­bers de­cried the amend­ment, call­ing it “un­con­scionable,” “ex­treme” and rem­i­nis­cent of the state’s dis­crim­i­na­tion against blacks.

This “con­temptible” bill “takes our state back­wards” in terms of re­spect­ing peo­ple, said state Rep. Deb­o­rah K. Ross. This bill “is not God, not even close,” said openly gay Rep. Mar­cus Bran­don.

The amend­ment now goes to the state Se­nate, where three­fifths of that cham­ber must pass it if it is to go to vot­ers. The gov­er­nor can­not veto the bill.

The amend­ment, which was passed by a House com­mit­tee ear­lier on Sept. 12, says that mar­riage be­tween one man and one wo­man “is the only do­mes­tic le­gal union that shall be valid or rec­og­nized in this state.” It clar­i­fies that it does not pro­hibit pri­vate par­ties from en­ter­ing into con­tracts.

The amend­ment called for a vote in May 2012, when pri­mary elec­tions are held, rather than the gen­eral elec­tion in Novem­ber 2012. This was done to “re­move pol­i­tics” from the is­sue, House Speaker Thom Til­lis told a news con­fer­ence.

Repub­li­cans took con­trol of both cham­bers in 2010 for the first time since 1896, free­ing them to take ac­tion on a “de­fense of mar­riage” amend­ment.

Equal­ity North Carolina, which sup­ports gay mar­riage, brought nearly 50,000 post­cards op­pos­ing the amend­ment to law­mak­ers on Sept. 12.

At a press con­fer­ence two weeks ago, a group of black pas­tors, in­clud­ing the Rev. Johnny Hunter of Fayet­teville, said that mar­riage was a divine re­la­tion­ship be­tween a man and a wo­man, and that gay-rights groups had hi­jacked the civil rights move­ment for their own “im­moral” pur­poses.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

A crowd gath­ers for a rally in sup­port of a state con­sti­tu­tional amend­ment rec­og­niz­ing mar­riage be­tween a man and a wo­man as the only do­mes­tic le­gal union on Halifax Mall be­hind the Leg­isla­tive Build­ing in Raleigh, N.C., on Sept. 12.

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