Originally published: Nov. 12, 10:11 a.m.
Updated: Nov. 14, 2011, 9:23 a.m.
GREENSBORO, N.C. — Four Democratic members of the North Carolina General Assembly slammed their Republican colleagues on Saturday during a panel discussion on an impending anti-LGBT constitutional amendment at a gay rights conference on the campus of the University of North Carolina-Greensboro.
“When [the amendment] came up, they all voted in lockstep for it,” state Rep. Jennifer Weiss (D-Wake) said of Republican legislators.
She criticized several unnamed Republicans for voting in favor of the amendment though they personally stood opposed. Only two Republicans opposed the amendment — one voting against and another who opted not to vote during the amendment’s final vote.
“The bottom line is…there’s a special place in hell for [these] people,” Weiss said. “It’s bad enough to believe in something and pursue something because you think you’re on the side of good or though you might be misguided but you are following your conscience, but when you think something is wrong and you vote for it out of political expediency, that’s even worse in my book and we saw that here.”
Other panelists included state Sen. Josh Stein (D-Wake) and Reps. Larry Hall (D-Durham) and Deborah Ross (D-Wake). State Rep. Rick Glazier (D-Cumberland) had been scheduled to participate but was unable. Chris Fitzsimon, director of NC Policy Watch, moderated the panel.
North Carolina Democrats found themselves sitting in the minority for the first time in over a century when Republicans took over both chambers of the state legislature in 2010. An anti-LGBT constitutional amendment banning marriage, civil unions and domestic partnerships for same-sex couples had been introduced for seven terms before finally being brought up and approved this year.
“For seven years under Democratic leadership, the amendment did not come up for a vote,” Weiss reminded the audience. “It got bottled up. Ross kept it bottled up with the support of the speaker. That’s important.”
Ross said Republicans failed in their legislative duties and faulted GOP leaders for the quick process by which the amendment was passed.
“Once they knew they had the votes they stopped doing their work,” she said.
Hall said the anti-LGBT amendment was just one of several issues Republicans used to “hold the legislature hostage.”
“The session was intentionally planned to be so combative and so disruptive to the normal flow of things,” he said.
Weiss said she sees possibilities for defeating the amendment.
“We kept this monster bottled up for seven years and political opinions have changed a lot in seven years,” she said. “Imagine if North Carolina were the first state to defeat this amendment. Would that not be the most powerful thing?”
Ross added, “Let’s defeat this amendment and show the world that North Carolina is still a progressive state.”