Two Democrats’ votes for anti-LGBT bill ruffles feathers

LGBT Democrats will 'not stand idly by while anyone, including those within our own party, fosters discrimination and prejudice'

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Two North Carolina Democrats are facing criticism for their votes in favor of a bill passed by the state Senate on Wednesday. The bill allows magistrates and registers of deeds to opt out of performing civil marriage services due to a “sincerely held religious objection,” and opponents say the legislation holds the potential to discriminate against LGBT couples and sets a dangerous precedent and lead to widespread discrimination against other minorities..

Mecklenburg County Democratic Sen. Joel Ford and Cumberland County Democratic Sen. Ben Clark were the only two Democrats to break with their party and vote for the legislation.

State and local officers with the LGBT Democrats of North Carolina, a caucus of the state party, are taking both to task.

“I have been hearing from LGBT Democrats and allies from across the state who are outraged at this blatant bigotry and direct attack on the LGBT community,” Ryan Butler, president of the LGBT Democrats of North Carolina, said in a message to supporters. “The LGBT Democrats will not stand idly by while anyone, including those within our own party, fosters discrimination and prejudice. We will continue to speak out and condemn these attacks on marriage equality.”

Cameron Joyce, president of the local LGBT Democrats of Mecklenburg County, echoed similar remarks.

- - - advertisement - - -

“The LGBT Democrats of Mecklenburg County will not be able to support any Mecklenburg County representative who actively works against our rights and protection,” Joyce said publicly on Wednesday. “We know where you stand on LGBT rights and without a change in heart and a public apology for your vote today, we will not support your re-election.”

The bill, sponsored by Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) and Sen. Buck Newton (R-Johnston, Nash, Wilson), passed the Senate on Wednesday 32-16.  The legislation was promised by State Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger last fall, after federal courts overturned the state’s anti-LGBT marriage amendment. Berger introduced his bill the first full day of legislative work. A broader, more far-reaching discriminatory bill is widely expected to be introduced this session, as well.

Two Republicans, Mecklenburg County’s Jeff Tarte and Wake County’s John Alexander, broke with their party to vote against the bill. Tarte said on the Senate floor his vote against the bill an effort to “uphold the rule of law” and “about trying to do the right thing,” despite his own personal religious convictions regarding marriage.

But both Ford and Clark agreed with Berger and Newton, saying the bill strikes a “balance” between “religious freedom” and the rights of LGBT couples.

“I’ve listened carefully to the passionate arguments put forth on both sides of the aisle,” Clark told the Senate after the body voted. “I’m deeply committed to equal rights and fair treatment for all North Carolinians. I’m persuaded that Senate Bill 2 accomplishes two important tasks. … Senate Bill 2 ensures the rights of all couples to be married while protecting the religious freedoms of individuals with sincerely held religious beliefs.”

In a short statement to qnotes, Ford said his vote was for “individual freedom,” adding, “I supported this bill because it respects an individual’s personal religious beliefs and it also protects same-sex couples’ right to marry.”

Ford is also drawing criticism for his retweets of comments from bill sponsor Buck Newton, who had said during floor debate, “You’re born in your race. I don’t know about sexual orientation.”

Ford didn’t respond to a question on whether or not he thinks discrimination based on sexual orientation should be judged with less scrutiny than discrimination based on other characteristics.

- - - advertisement - - -

The LGBT Democrats of North Carolina have been encouraging their members to tell Ford and Clark about their disappointment.

 

Not the first time Ford has waffled

Ford’s vote for the discriminatory bill on Wednesday isn’t the first time he’s waffled on LGBT equality.

In 2010, while still chair of the Mecklenburg County Democratic Party, Ford appeared on a local, weekly public affairs show where he seemed to be opposed to repeal of the U.S. military’s anti-gay “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.

I’m not sure what was wrong with the old policy,” Ford answered NBC Charlotte “FlashPoint” host Dave Wagner. “I’m a little surprised that the president is going out on this particular initiative.”

Wagner noted President Barack Obama’s move on DADT was a “campaign promise,” to which Joel then replied, “I understand a campaign promise but again, personally, I don’t agree with it and I’m trying to figure out what was wrong with the old policy.”

Ford continued, “I think it is more political than anything else. It’s unfortunate that we have to go through these political issues when we are dealing with the men and women in uniform.”

After the show, Ford backtracked on his remarks when asked about them by qnotes, saying he had a better understanding of the issues after being provided fact sheets and other figures regarding the old policy, which was eventually repealed in 2010 and fully effective in 2011.

“I understand better now the need for repealing ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’” Ford said at the time. “Clearly there is a need for a change. Any sensible human being…recognizes the need for a change in the policy.”

- - - advertisement - - -

Posted by Matt Comer

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

7 Replies to “Two Democrats’ votes for anti-LGBT bill ruffles feathers”

  1. These two senators know better. This bill is not about religious liberty of freedom. This bill is to deny equal rights to lesbian and gay couples seeking to marry, which is their Constitutional right. Wondering if Senators Ford and Clark support the idea that a Catholic could deny refuse to issue a marriage license to folks who were divorced? If your “sincerely held religious beliefs” prevent you from carrying out the duties of your public office then seek another job. Inexcusable. It’ll take much more than a mere apology. Perhaps a primary challenger should be coming forward, a challenger who adheres to the principles that Democratic party members and voters believe in, equality for all. Equality without caveats. This bill and the shameful vote cast by these two Democratic state senators simply underscores the absolute must for a fully inclusive comprehensive LGBT civil rights law, one that extends the same protections under the 1964 Civil Rights Act to the LGBT community.

  2. These two senators know better. This bill is not about religious liberty or freedom. This bill is to deny equal rights to lesbian and gay couples seeking to marry, which is our Constitutional right. Wondering if Senators Ford and Clark support the idea that a Catholic could deny or refuse to issue a marriage license to folks who were divorced? If your “sincerely held religious beliefs” prevent you from carrying out the duties of your public office then seek another job. Inexcusable. It’ll take much more than a mere apology. Perhaps a primary challenger should be coming forward, a challenger who adheres to the principles that Democratic party members and voters believe in, equality for all. Equality without caveats. This bill and the shameful vote cast by these two Democratic state senators simply underscores the absolute must for a fully inclusive comprehensive LGBT civil rights law, one that extends the same protections under the 1964 Civil Rights Act to the LGBT community.

    1. sincerely held religious beliefs” (beliefs)

      in 1945 my dad needed a new job as the war facctory shut down where he was a foreman

      in his papers i found a job ad from 1945 ending

      “jews and colored need not apply”

      as for these two rotten people whats happened is many of them have joined their oppressors religion – southern baptists – a spin off of the old dutch church of apartheid in south Africa

      isnt religion wonderful (satire)

  3. Rev. Carl Johnson February 26, 2015 at 9:32 am

    That a legislator of any party or any race could vote to support discrimination based on personal views is unacceptable. That same logic has been used to justify so many crimes against humanity.
    If a civil servant swears an oath to fulfill his or her duties under civil law and then balks about it, they should tender their resignation ASAP.
    There is no room in NC for discrimination to be codifed into law.

  4. May both of these Democrat senators discover their short-sighted vision of what our government should be and do and apologize to us all for their bigotry! Otherwise, may voters ultimately teach them a real lesson or two!!

  5. This is exactly what the Right Wing loves to see and works hard at accomplishing; convincing people that “their” cause for equality and Justice is far different and separate from anyone else’s cause for the same thing.
    I am sure these Democratic Representatives believe they did not denigrate, or otherwise harm their own pursuit for equality and justices for African Americans in North Carolina, but nothing could be further from the truth.
    I am sure they do not see that now, but they will. In the meantime, the Republican scheme of divide and conquer is succeeding very well in North Carolina. I am sure the Republican pats on the back felt good though. .

  6. This is hatred and bigotry under the guise of religion.

    I don’t believe anyone should hold an elected office if they don’t follow the “all men (and women) are created equal” rule. For two Democratics to uphold such a bill gives us little hope for true democracy.

    Shame! Shame!

Comments are closed.