House Republicans in North Carolina on Monday passed a constitutional amendment that, if approved by voters, would codify a ban on same-sex marriage in the state. That the Republican leadership then did not allow for public comment or expert testimony on the ban has angered many.
Ten Democrats voted with nearly all House Republicans to pass the amendment in a 75-42 vote — above the three fifths needed to advance the measure. The amendment now goes before the senate where the same margin is needed to pass the legislation.
The amendment was moved at lightning speed, having first been approved by a House committee on a voice vote earlier the same day. The Republican leadership contended that a public debate wasn’t necessary because the issue will be going before voters anyway. Opposed Democratic legislators thought this showed underhanded tactics from the GOP leadership.
House Majority Leader Rep. Paul Stam, a Republican, told committee members he felt it was imperative they move to adopt the amendment.
“Things have changed in Iowa, California, New York, D.C. and Massachusetts,” Stam said. “We have now states with significant populations that are allowing same-sex marriages to be legitimized and entered into. The question then becomes, what happens when they come to North Carolina seeking divorce or equitable distribution?”
North Carolina Rep. Paul Luebke, a Democrat, said while he understood that Republicans want to move on the issue, he felt it was “reprehensible,” given such a high level of public interest, that the public would not have the chance to comment.
“Whether you (are) for this amendment or against it, it is a travesty we are not debating the measure” properly, Luebke said.
Luebke added that by pushing the proposed amendment along without the right process, the Legislature was wrongly moving to “specifically prohibit one group of citizens” without letting them have a say.
On the other hand, Rep. Charles Graham (D-Robeson) said he was happy with his “yes” vote because, he contended, he had to listen to the will of his constituents.
While North Carolina residents overwhelmingly support keeping their statutory ban on same-sex marriage, a new poll by Public Polling Policy (PPP) says that a majority would reject a constitutional amendment enshrining the state’s gay marriage ban if it also blocks same-sex couples from all legal recognition. Read more on that here.
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