N.C. House Speaker: Anti-LGBT amendment will be heard this fall

Cornelius Republican says 'traditional marriages' more stable, nurturing; undecided on restrictions to domestic partner benefits

by Matt Comer  Editor  editor@goqnotes.com
Published: July 1, 2011 in News

CHARLOTTE — North Carolina Speaker of the House Thom Tillis (R-Mecklenburg) told Asheville’s Citizen-Times that he expects an amendment to ban recognition of same-sex couples’ relationships to be brought up during a special legislative session this fall and pass by the required majority needed to place it on the 2012 ballot.

N.C. Speaker of the House Thom Tillis says he expects the anti-LGBT amendment to pass by the required three-fifths needed to send it to the ballot in 2012.

His comments were published by the newspaper on June 30, after Tillis met and spoke with the paper’s editorial board on a variety of issues including his staff’s salaries, the education budget and redistricting.

Tillis and Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger (R-Guilford) have both been relatively quiet about their views on the anti-LGBT amendment.

“The defense of marriage is one that a number of folks in our base feel very strongly about,” Tillis told the Asheville paper.

While noting that it would “definitely be brought up in a special fall session,” the paper said, Tillis added, “Generally speaking, it polls fairly high across the voter base. It’s not a particularly partisan thing.”

Social conservatives in the legislature have circulated an opinion poll that showed as many as 70 percent of North Carolinians supporting the amendment, though an Elon University poll also showed a majority of Tar Heel residents supporting some sort of official recognition for same-sex relationships.

Tillis declined to say how he personally feels about same-sex relationships and marriage equality, but did tell the paper that “data” shows that “traditional marriages between men and women are more stable and nurturing.”

Tillis has not taken a formal position on whether the amendment should also ban civil unions and domestic partner benefits offered by private businesses or local governments.

“We’re doing our homework. We do need to understand that and have that factor in to what will ultimately be put into the language,” he said.

Two versions of the amendment have been filed in the legislature. In February, Gaston County Republican Sen. James Forrester introduced his amendment, which could ban both public and private relationships among same-sex couples including marriage, civil unions and domestic partner benefits. The House version targets only marriage.

He said he expects the measure to pass the House by 72 votes, the minimum three-fifths majority necessary for an amendment’s passage. Such a tally would require the solid support of the House’s 66 Republican members and six others. One unaffiliated member, Rep. Bert Jones (Rockingham), usually caucuses with House Republicans and is a sponsor of the amendment.

Ian Palmquist, the out-going executive director of the statewide advocacy group Equality North Carolina, says there might yet be hope for stopping the amendment in the House or Senate.

“There are a great many Republicans, I believe, who realize that this is ultimately an issue that could hurt them,” he said, noting the recent passage of a marriage equality bill by New York’s Republican-controlled Senate.

The amendment cannot be vetoed by the governor. If passed by the legislature, the amendment will be placed on the 2012 ballot. : :

more: Keep up with news on the anti-LGBT amendment and other updates from the legislature in our Legislative Watch: goqnotes.com/in/ncga/