Originally published: April 6, 2011, 6:01 p.m.
Updated: April 8, 2011, 12:49 p.m.
RALEIGH, N.C. — An anti-gay constitutional amendment that could strip away marriage rights for same-sex couples was filed Wednesday in the North Carolina House of Representatives.
A similar amendment was introduced to the Senate in late February. The House version, filed by two Republicans and two Democrats, contains different wording that could slightly narrow the impact of the amendment.
“Marriage is the union of one man and one woman at one time. No other relationship shall be recognized as a valid marriage by the State,” the House amendment reads. The Senate’s version says no other “domestic legal union” will be recognized.
LGBT advocates with the statewide group Equality North Carolina say marriage — already denied to same-sex couples by state statute — isn’t the only right that could be banned by the proposed Senate version. Civil unions and domestic partner benefits could also be subject to prohibition. Several municipalities across the state offer health and other benefits to same-sex partners of their employees; those include Durham, Mecklenburg and Orange Counties, as well as the cities or towns of Carrboro, Chapel Hill, Durham and Greensboro. Private companies, including global giants like Charlotte’s Bank of America, also offer such benefits and could be subject to the Senate amendment.
“I think it is a step in the right direction that they didn’t introduce as extreme a version as the Senate did,” Equality North Carolina Executive Director Ian Palmquist told qnotes. “The fact remains it is still an attempt to write discrimination into our state constitution.”
The House version is sponsored by Republicans David Lewis (Harnett) and Rayne Brown (Davidson) and Democrats James Crawford, Jr. (Granville, Vance) and Dewey Hill (Brunswick, Columbus). Additionally, 35 other representatives had as of early Friday afternoon signed on as co-sponsors. Of the additional co-sponsors, five are Democrats and one is unaffiliated. House members have until Friday at 5 p.m. to sign onto the bill.
Palmquist indicated he had not spoken to House leadership on Wednesday, but that he and his group’s lobbyist would continue to encourage the chamber’s leadership not to bring the bill to the floor.
Republican state Sens. James Forrester (R-Gaston), Jerry W. Tillman (Montgomery, Randolph) and Dan Soucek (Alexander, Ashe, Watauga, Wilkes) are the primary sponsors of the Senate version. It has been referred to the Senate Rules Committee. Twenty other senators have signed on in support.
Similar amendments, whose primary proponents have been Republicans, have been kept at bay for the past seven years. The state’s legislature flipped from a Democratic to Republican majority in last November’s midterm elections. A constitutional amendment cannot be vetoed by the governor and must gain the approval of a three-fifths majority of both chambers before proceeding to the ballot. A simple majority of voters is needed for ratification. Both the Senate and House versions of the amendment would place the amendment on next year’s November ballot.