Amendment made for rollercoaster year

The sausage-making that is legislating kept activists busy from day one

Organizing against the impending anti-LGBT amendment spread across the state like wildfire soon after the measure’s legislative approval. Pictured, an Oct. 15 rally in Uptown Charlotte.

LGBT advocates and grassroots activists knew they were up for a challenge the moment election results started rolling in November 2010’s midterm elections. Control of the state legislature had been returned to Republican hands for the first time in over a century. It was time for the longtime minority to have its way on Jones St. and Republican leadership wasted no time getting to their decades-long pent-up agenda.

It was a foregone conclusion that North Carolina would, at least, consider an anti-LGBT constitutional amendment, a measure that would ban recognition of marriage, civil unions and domestic partnerships for same-sex couples. Republican legislators like the late state Sen. James Forrester had worked to convince the previously Democratic-led leadership to take up his discriminatory measure for the past seven years in a row. He never had any luck and the bill never moved. But, anti-gay sympathies among the new Republican majority and its leadership all but guaranteed the amendment’s hearing in House and Senate chambers.

Forrester immediately jumped on his to-do list soon after the General Assembly opened for this year’s session. He filed his bill and began pushing for the amendment. A month later, the amendment was filed in the House.

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The weeks went by with very little word on the amendment’s progress. It hadn’t been scheduled for a hearing and legislative leaders like Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger and House Speaker Thom Tillis were staying quiet on the issue.

The silence was broken in May at a pro-amendment rally staged on the grounds of the legislature. In June, an open mic (whether it was planned or mistakenly left on, no one knows) caught Republican House members discussing the proposed amendment.

“It’s important to the conservative groups that we get this passed this year because they need that to be able to get their ground game working to get the maximum effect to get out the vote,” Catawba County Republican Mark Hilton said.

Hilton also thanked Tillis for his support of the amendment, one of the first public indications that the speaker would, in fact, favor the measure.

“Speaker Tillis has assured us it will happen this year,” Hilton said. “It may be in a special session for constitutional amendments but it will happen this year.”

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Tillis’ support for the amendment was confirmed a month later when the leader told Asheville’s Citizen-Times that the measure would “definitely be brought up in a special fall session.”

Advocates and grassroots activists and volunteers with Equality North Carolina paid close attention throughout the year as the legislative process crept along. In July, former Executive Director Ian Palmquist stepped down from his role. In his place, Interim Executive Director Alex Miller stood in as an outspoken advocate, challenging leaders like Forsyth County Republican and House Speaker Pro Tempore Dale Folwell.

In September, the gauntlet was laid down. The amendment passed the House 75-42 on Sept. 12. One day later, the Senate passed the measure 30-16, the slimmest of necessary margins.

The fight to keep discrimination out of the state constitution was on. Equality North Carolina and its members didn’t hesitate. Fundraising challenges were made and met, even before an official anti-amendment referendum committee was announced in November.

This year wasn’t the best for the LGBT community. However, despite the challenges faced by the amendment, community leaders and members pulled together and united like never before. It’s a trend organizers against the amendment hope continues in the new year, where the amendment’s ultimate fate will be decided by voters on May 8, 2012. : :

more: Want more of our past and continuing coverage of the amendment? Visit our Legislative Watch at goqnotes.com/in/ncga/.

 

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Posted by Matt Comer

Matt Comer is a staff writer for QNotes. He previously served as editor from October 2007 through August 2015.

One Reply to “Amendment made for rollercoaster year”

  1. “LGBT advocates and grassroots activists knew they were up for a challenge the moment election results started rolling in November 2010’s midterm elections.”

    It’s too bad more people didn’t see this challenge coming before the 2010 election. While not 100% of Dems are for equality, I can’t think of any GOP representative who has consistently voted against inequality. Even the libertarian republican who said he would vote against it, gave a vote for it in one of the readings.

    I hope this is remembered as the 2012 elections come around. If we beat the amendment, we have to keep them from trying to put it on the ballot again during an off year like 2014. If we lose, we have to remember things can get worse. We’ve got to change things up, and get more pro-equality leadership for the House & Senate, because leadership is so key on whether this stuff ends up in committees & dead, or ends up on the ballot.

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