RALEIGH — Thanks to the extensive lobbying efforts by EqualityNC, the anti-bullying bill, the School Violence Prevention Act, passed its third and final reading in the House 72-47 on May 24, marking the very first time in N.C. state history that a pro-equality bill has passed either chamber in the General Assembly.
Action on the hill: two bills affecting the LGBT community were at the fore in late May.
The bill, which will direct local school boards to adopt policies to protect public school students from bullying and harassment, will now go to the Senate where it is expected to pass.
“We believe that it will pass,” says EqualityNC Director Ian Palmquist, “though we have some work to do to get it through. Then it would go to the governor for him to sign, and it would become law.”
Palmquist is upbeat that N.C. Gov. Mike Easley, a Democrat, would sign the legislation.
Another bill drawing a firestorm of attention during this legislative session is the North Carolina marriage amendment (H.B. 493-Defense of Marriage).
Although the House Rules Committee allowed the bill to pass to the floor May 22, at the close of the session the same day, Speaker Joe Hackney (D-Orange) re-referred the marriage amendment bill to the Judiciary 1 Committee. The bill did not come out of committee by May 24. According to General Assembly rules, the bill is effectively dead for this year.
“I think it’s simply a political agenda, and I don’t know that we ought to make time for it,” said Hackney.
This marks the fourth time the bill has been introduced — and then stopped in its tracks.
To date, North Carolina is the only southern state that has not amended its constitution to ban gay marriage. Any proposed amendment needs approval by three-fifths of both the House and Senate and by a majority of voters in a statewide referendum.
According to Palmquist there is some debate as to whether the rules of committee apply to H.B. 493, and the possibility of further action on the measure this year could exist, though at press time it was considered remote.