RALEIGH, N.C. — Four of North Carolina’s most conservative and lowest-ranked legislators have introduced a bill stating that the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges that legalized marriage equality nationally “is null and void in the State of North Carolina.” The bill, HB 780, seeks to reinstate Amendment One, the passage in the North Carolina Constitution that bans legal recognition of any same-sex partnership.
The News & Observer reports that these legislators — Rep. Larry Pittman of Concord, Rep. Michael Speciale of New Bern and Rep. Carl Ford of Rowan County — often introduce legislation that is so conservative that even fellow Republicans in the General Assembly vote them down.
HB 780, titled the “Uphold Historical Marriage Act,” asserts that the U.S. Supreme Court “overstepped its Constitutional bounds … [it] also exceeds the authority of the Court relative to the decree of Almighty God.” The authors of the bill then begin quoting the Christian Bible, apparently forgetting the separation of church and state.
The bill argues that the Biblical passage quoted “abrogates the clear meaning and understanding of marriage in all societies throughout prior history.” For a scholarly account of same-sex marriage throughout history, see this article from Yale Law scholar William Eskridge, Jr.
HB 780 has not gone unnoticed by other North Carolina legislators. Gov. Roy Cooper tweeted about the bill on April 11.
“This bill is wrong,” Cooper wrote. “We need more LGBT protections, not fewer.”
The North Carolina Democratic Party released a statement saying that “Republicans in the General Assembly seem to have a special talent for embarrassing themselves and our state. Instead of wasting their time on hateful, discriminatory and clearly unconstitutional legislation, they should be working with Governor Cooper to improve our schools and cut taxes for the middle class.”
“Pittman and Speciale are embarrassments to the State of North Carolina and should be shunned from public life,” Wake County Commissioner John Burns tweeted.
“If this bill were to become law it would be declared unconstitutional,” Campbell University law professor Greg Wallace told WNCN. “While people legitimately can disagree with the supreme court’s gay marriage decision a state legislature cannot overrule the supreme court’s interpretation of the federal constitution.”
Activist organizations are also condemning the bill.
“Marriage equality is the law of the land in North Carolina and the entire nation, no matter what half-baked legal theories anti-LGBT lawmakers try to put forward,” said ACLU-NC Policy Director Sarah Gillooly. “This bill is absurd, unconstitutional and further proof that some North Carolina legislators remain committed to discriminating against LGBT people and their families. North Carolina lawmakers cannot defy the U.S. Supreme Court based on their extreme personal views.”
In the aftermath of HB2, the transphobic “bathroom bill” that inspired widespread boycotting of the state, it seems unlikely that the North Carolina General Assembly will want to invoke a repeat episode. Having lost hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue due to the discriminatory nature of HB2, HB 780 isn’t expected to pass. The Charlotte Observer described national backlash, with publications all over the country ridiculing the bill, its sponsors, and what all of it means for the reputation of the state of North Carolina.
House Speaker Tim Moore, one of the state’s most prominent Republican legislators, said in a statement that the bill will not be heard because of its contradiction to the highest court in the nation.
“There are strong constitutional concerns with this legislation given that the U.S. Supreme Court has firmly ruled on the issue,” Moore said. “Therefore House Bill 780 will be referred to the House Rules Committee and will not be heard.”