Senate passes anti-LGBT amendment; will appear on May 2012 ballot

Approved 30-16, measure gains slimmest three-fifths majority

by Matt Comer  Editor  editor@goqnotes.com
Published: September 13, 2011 in News

Last updated: 9/13/2011, 11:49 p.m.

RALEIGH, N.C. — Members of the North Carolina Senate barely passed a motion Tuesday afternoon to place an anti-LGBT constitutional amendment on the ballot in May 2012. The body began debate shortly after noon and ended at 1:22 p.m. The final vote tally, 30-16, barely met the three-fifths majority needed for the measure to pass. The measure gained prior approval in the state’s House on Monday.

Opening debate, primary sponsor Sen. James Forrester (R-Gaston) said he was thankful to get the opportunity to hear his bill.

“This is the eighth year I put in this bill,” Forrester said. “The bill never had a hearing. I’m very happy to have this bill before us at the time.”

Forrester said the amendment was intended to defend the “an institution in our society based upon the complementary male and female loin.”

“Moms and dads are not interchangeable,” Forrester continued. “Two dads don’t make a mom. Two moms don’t make a dad. Children need both a father and a mother.”

Republican Sen. Dan Soucek also stood to defend the bill. He said marriage was under attack and said the bill would help prevent the “breakdown of the family.”

Democrat Ellie Kinnaird, who represents Orange County, refuted Soucek. “Gays aren’t the ones causing damage to marriage,” she said.

Sen. Josh Stein (D-Wake) said this week’s special session was unnecessary.

“Why are we here? Rome is burning. We are on the edge of a double-dip recession,” he said. “Yet, we’ve been called back to this special session to the cost of $50,000 a day not to improve our economy, not even to alleviate the suffering of those down east. No, we are here because some of you want to graft onto our constitution controversial and discriminatory legislation.”

Stein continued in debate, outlining North Carolina’s history of discriminatory constitutional amendments. “This is the unfortunate history of social issues in our constitution,” he said. “None have stood the test of time.”

Sen. William Purcell, a Democrat who represents rural Anson, Richmond, Scotland and Stanly Counties, also spoke out against the amendment, saying it was misguided.

“If we are really serious about preserving traditional marriage, we need to concentrate our efforts…on those things that are a real threat to traditional marriage in North Carolina,” he said. “One of those is a high divorce rate, which is somewhere between 40 and 50 percent, domestic violence and child and spousal abuse and drug and alcohol abuse which has wrecked so many marriages in this state.”

Purcell said the amendment would “do nothing to preserve traditional marriage.”

Asheville’s Sen. Martin Nesbitt (D) took direct aim at the bill’s primary sponsor.

“I’ve served with Sen. Forrester since he got here and I’ve always considered him a gentleman and a scholar. I appreciate my service with him and he drags this bill up and the next thing I’m reading is that he’s declared my community a cesspool of sin,” Nesbitt said in response to Forrester’s comments regarding Asheville last week. “I tell you what, mountain people are getting a little tired of people sitting down here throwing darts at them.”

Republican Sen. E.S. Newton (Nash, Wilson) asked his colleagues to “get real,” and said comparisons of the anti-LGBT amendment to North Carolina’s racist past and to Nazi Germany were unacceptable. He said the amendment would protect North Carolinians from “judicial fiat from somewhere else by politically-appointed judges who decide they are going to impose their own will on society.”

Republicans control the Senate 31 to 19. The final tally represented a straight, party-line vote. Four senators — three Democrats and one Republican — did not vote; they each had excused absences in the Senate today.

The White House responded to the amendment vote, after an inquiry by Washington Blade political reporter Chris Johnson.

“The President has long believed that gay and lesbian couples deserve the same rights and legal protections as straight couples,” spokesperson Shin Inouye said. “That’s why he has called for repeal of the so-called ‘Defense of Marriage Act’ and determined that his Administration would no longer defend the constitutionality of DOMA in the courts. He has also said that the states should determine for themselves how best to uphold the rights of their own citizens.”

Inouye statment continued, “While the President does not weigh in on every single action taken by legislative bodies in our country, the record is clear that the President has long opposed divisive and discriminatory efforts to deny rights and benefits to same sex couples. The President believes strongly in stopping laws designed to take rights away.”

This is a developing story. Stay tuned for more updates at our Legislative Watch at goqnotes.com/in/ncga/.