RALEIGH – Several key pieces of legislation both anti-gay and pro-equality have been filed as the North Carolina General Assembly dives deep into its 2009-2010 legislative session.
Conservative lawmakers introduced an anti-LGBT, anti-family state constitutional amendment on marriage at a press conference on Feb. 24. State Sen. Jim Forrester, the chief sponsor of the amendment in the N.C. Senate, said the amendment would protect our children and our grandchildren.
“It would protect them from being taught in public schools that same-sex marriage is the same as traditional marriage,” he said. “It would protect children from being raised in unhealthy homes.”
EqualityNC Executive Director Ian Palmquist said conservative lawmakers and the right wing are using scare tactics to advance their amendment. He said there was absolutely no evidence to support their claims.
This year marks the sixth year in a row that Forrester and other conservative Republicans and Democrats have introduced the amendment. For the past five years, the Democratic leadership in both the N.C. House and Senate have blocked the the amendment’s progress.
“Our leadership has refused to act, has refused to have the bill heard in committee and giving the citizens in our state the right and opportunity to vote on this issue as 30 other states have,” said Forrester. “It takes only one liberal judge to overturn our statutes and usher in gay marriage.”
Chiefly sponsored by State Sen. Jim Forrester and Rep. Paul Stam, the North Carolina Defense of Marriage Amendment would ban all recognition of same-sex marriages, domestic partnerships or other civil, domestic unions.
Roman Catholic Bishops Michael Burbidge of Raleigh and Peter Jugis of Charlotte joined Forrester, Stam and other legislators and conservative activists from the anti-gay coalition NC4Marriage at the press conference in the N.C. Legislative Building.
“We are seeing a greater push from the right wing than ever before,” Palmquist told Q-Notes. “Because of that we really need to be organized and vocal in our opposition to ensure that it does not come up. I m hopeful that we ll be able to do it but we need to recognize that there is more pressure from the right than we’ve seen in the past.”
Palmquist added that he believes state legislative leadership will focus their chambers work on issues like solving the state budget and addressing unemployment rather than on the constitutional amendment.
Several county governments have passed resolutions supporting the passage of the proposed amendment, which would ban marriage as well as state and local benefits in the form of domestic partner health policies. Those counties include Lincoln, Ashe, Avery, Rowan, Transylvania and Moore, among others.
Palmquist encouraged community members to check the agendas of their county and city governments, to help keep track of the progressing anti-gay movement across the state.
“Agendas often aren’t posted until a day or two before meetings,” Palmquist said. “Our interns are scanning sites every few days. We encourage all our supporters to monitor their local county commissions for these issues and to talk to their commissioners in opposition.”
Forrester and Jacumin have asked local county leaders to pass resolutions in support of the amendment.
Their request was more than enough for the chairman of the Rowan County Commissioners, Carl Ford, to take the measure up at his meeting. I couldn’t ignore that, Ford said of the senators request before voting to pass the resolution at the Feb. 16 Rowan County board meeting.
“As we learn about resolutions coming up in local governments we are alerting people in those areas to contact their elected officials and to attend the meetings and speak out against them,” Palmquist said.
Among the pro-equality bills introduced are a comprehensive sex education bill, a repeal of the state s Crime Against Nature law and a hate crimes bill. The School Violence Prevention Act, an anti-bullying bill, had yet to be introduced by Q-Notes press time. Palmquist said he expected the bill to be introduced in early- to mid-March.
EqualityNC will hold a lobbying Day of Action at the N.C. Legislative Building on March 24. To register or for more information, visit www.equalitync.org.