Brief amendment scare mobilizes pro-LGBT advocates

Legislature almost considered constitutional amendments in late July

by Matt Comer  Editor  editor@goqnotes.com
Published: August 6, 2011 in News

RALEIGH, N.C. — A surprise move by Republican legislative leaders caught a handful of lawmakers, lobbyists and advocacy organizations off-guard late in a session originally intended to address redistricting and the governor’s vetoed bills.

As their session wound up during the last week of July, state lawmakers briefly considered changing their adjournment rules in order to hear several constitutional amendments, possibly including an anti-LGBT amendment on same-sex relationships, but eventually decided against the plan.

Equality North Carolina volunteers and staff work to mobilize supporters and citizens at their Raleigh offices. Photo Credit: Jen Jones/ENC.

Legislators were back in the state capital to consider several matters, including redistricting, election laws and overrides to Gov. Bev Perdue’s several vetoes. Their session rules allowed them to consider only those and certain other topics. Rep. Tim Moore (R-Cleveland), however, filed an adjournment resolution that would have allowed the legislature to quickly adjourn and reconvene for a new, one-day session that would have allowed for consideration of constitutional amendments.

Both the House and Senate are considering anti-LGBT constitutional amendments that could ban all recognition of same-sex marriages, civil unions, domestic partnerships and other public and private arrangements for same-sex couples.

There had been no serious indication the anti-LGBT bills would have been heard, though the possibility was real. Statewide advocacy group Equality North Carolina emailed their supporters and urged them to contact their legislators. The group also issued a call for volunteers to help them staff phone banking efforts to encourage others to engage with their legislators as well.

As originally planned, legislators adjourned their session on July 28 and will come back to Raleigh for a special fall session on Sept. 12 when, according to Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger (R-Rockingham), legislators will consider constitutional amendments. In June, House Speaker Thom Tillis (R-Mecklenburg) told Asheville’s Citizen-Times that the anti-LGBT amendments would “definitely be brought up in a special fall session.”

The national, Hickory, N.C.-based group, Faith in America, is taking the fall amendment threat seriously. They’ve spoken out and said anti-gay lawmakers should know they will be held accountable.

Brent Childers, Faith in America executive director, said his group would begin a statewide awareness campaign to bring attention to the actions of legislators who support the anti-LGBT constitutional amendments.

“The constituents of every legislator who votes to proceed with the anti-gay marriage initiative are going to learn how these elected officials are promoting a social and religious climate of hostility and violence toward innocent people and children,” Childers said in a release. “We plan to reveal to parents, business owners, church-goers and the kids in these legislators’ hometowns the heinous and immensely harmful form of bigotry and prejudice that these legislators are embracing.”

Childers and Faith in America are hopeful that calmer minds will ultimately prevail in the amendment debate.

“We hope a majority of legislators will decide in favor of human dignity and equality rather than using their vote to bring harm to others for potential political gain or favor,” he said. “If they come down on the side of causing harm to LGBT youth and families, they will not do so with impunity.”

North Carolina is the last remaining state in the Southeast without a constitutional amendment banning recognition of same-sex relationships. Amendments to the state constitutional must pass each chamber of the legislature by a three-fifths majority. The governor has no veto authority over amendments. If passed, the anti-LGBT amendment would be placed on the 2012 ballot. : :

more: Keep up with the most up-to-date news from the legislature and on the constitutional amendment at goqnotes.com/in/ncga/.