North Carolina State Legislative Office Building

Last updated: 9/12/2011, 6:10 p.m.

RALEIGH, N.C.  — The North Carolina House of Representatives passed today, 75-42, a proposed anti-LGBT state constitutional amendment that would ban marriage, civil unions, domestic partnerships and other relationship recognition for same-sex couples.

The House took up the amendment after its rushed passage through the chamber’s Rules Committee earlier this afternoon. It came as another surprise move by Republican legislative leaders, who had previously announced, though sneakily, that the amendment would be heard today in a Senate committee. Sources say two GOP senators had excused absences, leaving the body without the votes for passage.

The newest version of the amendment, SB 514, moves the ballot date from November 2012 to the primary election in May 2012. Speaker of the House Thom Tillis (R-Mecklenburg) said the date change was a way to “remove politics” from the issue.

“What we’re trying to do is respect the concerns of some who felt like this was purely politically-motivated,” Tillis said at the press conference. “I decided, consulting with a number of people, and we decided that this was the most acceptable form. It was a discussion that involved both chambers. There are some members who were inclined to support the bill and did feel like political considerations were an issue that might cause them not to vote for something they would otherwise support.”

GOP leaders had come under fire for placing the amendment on the ballot during next year’s presidential elections. Critics said they were merely attempting to increase conservative voter turnout.

Committee debate

The Rules Committee began their hearing at approximately 1:15 p.m. and ended near 2 p.m. The amendment passed by a voice vote of the committee.

House Majority Leader Rep. Paul Stam (R-Wake) said it was “imperative” that the amendment be sent to voters.

“Things have changed in Iowa, California, New York, D.C. and Massachusetts,” Stam said. “We have now states with significant populations that are allowing same-sex marriages to be legitimized and entered into. The question then becomes what happens when they come to North Carolina seeking divorce or equitable distribution?”

Stam said marriage equality had been brought to those jurisdictions by state judges using provisions similar to those included in North Carolina’s constitution.

Former House Speaker Joe Hackney (D-Orange) said the amendment was a “terrible idea” and that the amendment should have been written with better care.

“This is no way to conduct constitutional business for the State of North Carolina,” Hackney said in committee. “It ought not to be done this way and ought to be given a fair hearing. We have people in the audience, experts on constitutional interpretation. They are not allowed to speak. The language itself is put together — apparently finalized last evening. There are so many unanswered questions about this that we don’t have time to go into here at this meeting.”

Throughout the committee hearing and into floor debate, Hackney and other Democratic members continued to disparage Republicans for the hasty, rushed manner of the amendment.

House floor debate

Debate on the House floor started shortly after 2:30 p.m. on MOnday. The majority of speakers throughout debate were Democrats opposed to the measure.

One of the strongest speeches against the measure came from Forsyth County’s Larry Womble.

“This proposed piece of legislation is clearly an example of discrimination,” Womble said. “It is discrimination in its highest form…We’ve been so silent on some of the atrocities committed in this state against other people, human beings; the only difference is it might be the texture of their hair, the pigmentation of their skin or the color of their eyes. We are again today discriminating against people who are citizens. They are not criminals. They’ve not broken any laws. I assume they register and vote. They go to school. They work. They want to ascribe to the best that this society can offer…North Carolina is bigger than this. North Carolina is better than this. We need to rise to the occasion as we have done before when there’s been issues that are not right and not fair.”

Rep. Pricey Harrison (D-Guilford) also gave a moving, though a short, statement against the amendment. She teared up near the end of her speech while talking about her lesbian sister, her partner and four-year-old child.

Asheville’s Susan Fischer warned her colleagues that history would judge them harshly. “In the not too distant future we will be apologizing yet again for more unfair and discriminatory practices,” she said, citing the state’s past history of civil rights abuses.

Rep. Kelly Alexander (D-Mecklenburg) compared the anti-LGBT amendment to anti-miscegenation laws of North Carolina’s 19th century postbellum past. “Now is the time to thoughtfully stand against those people who are outside of these chambers and are clamoring for us to do something that is not logical or in the best interest of the people of this state,” he said. “Please vote against amending our constitution in this totally 19th century way.”

One of the final speeches opposed to the amendment came from Rep. Marcus Brandon (D-Guilford), the state’s only openly gay lawmaker (see, “In the limelight: Brandon at center of anti-LGBT amendment debate”). He said it was time to call out the amendment for what it is: discrimination.

“This is all about someone is different, therefore you will be treated different,” he said.

Brandon also said lawmakers could not make any logical argument for passing the amendment. “If you have a problem in your marriage, then it’s probably something you’re doing not what someone else is doing,” he said. “I can think of a lot of sins in the bible that affects marriage more than what a homosexual does any day of the week.”

Recounting an anti-gay speech he heard on the grounds of the legislature that day, Brandon asked all members to keep in mind the harm that will be caused by millions of dollars worth of ads that will be run during an amendment ballot campaign.

“What is a little child like after $10 million of ads that sound just like what I heard today,” Brandon asked. “What does that do to your constituents?”

Brandon concluded with an apology to the LGBT community: “To the folks in the LGBT community, I do apologize for the General Assembly and the way we have operated,” he said, then turning his attention to legislators: “Remember that flag will always stand for freedom. I don’t care how much power you think you have you will never take it away.”

Floor debate ended shortly after 6 p.m. The amendment passed 75-42 and now awaits hearing in the Senate, where it is expected it will also gain the three-fifths majority needed to place it on the ballot in May 2012.

This is a developing story. Stay tuned for more updates at our Legislative Watch at

Matt Comer

Matt Comer previously served as editor from October 2007 through August 2015 and as a staff writer afterward in 2016.

26 replies on “N.C. House passes anti-LGBT amendment”

  1. Just thinking of how little control I have over this and my rights are being taken away so quickly each day. Its sad to think people still come here for FREEDOM. Can we not come together and truly show everyone we just want to be treated equally

  2. Well since N. Carolina is doing God’s will, let’s see how well God will reward them for their wonderful job in making sure gay people’s lives are miserable and unequal – God must really be pleased, so North Carolina look out for your reward!!!

  3. Shocking… that the Constitution (an instrument that guarantees rights) could be corrupted in such a way.

  4. Yeah, Stam, because all the gay people are making plans to rush to NC to get divorced. Gotta love the random logic. Yet straight couples are still welcome to come and get divorced all they want, no worries there.

  5. Please spend some money on education to help fight discrimination and bigotry. Bigotry went out during the last century. Stand up and be REAL men and fight against hatred.

    I am so ashamed that this happens in our country. What is next Nazi emblems?

  6. I am truly ashamed of this state. I never thought this would pass. HOW DISGUSTING! The people who voted for this discriminatory bill will be ASHAMED of themselves! The whole country is watching and I am, for the first time, ashamed that I am from this state. Every person who voted for this bill will be hearing from me personally so I can voice my distaste for their bigoted and hate-filled attitudes and hearts.

  7. I hope those that voted for this don’t end up in my office needing treatment for pain or cancer complications. I might be biased as well and ignore logic.

  8. Why must religion continue to warp the minds of our legislators? What happened to the division of church and state? You can not tell me that it is purely the idea that we will get married in another state and then demand you let us be recognized in N.C.
    If you really thought the public at large would agree with this bill, then why did you feel the need to fast track this debate without public discussion? When you act guilty, you must be guilty. If something feels wrong…it is most likely wrong!
    This not only feels wrong…it feels malicious!

  9. This is just one more thing that makes America sink lower! People need to look at what the basis of our Supreme constitution is based off of. For the people who are not sure what I am talking about i’am specifically pointing to the 9th amendment The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people; the No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws. These two major amendments that our forefathers have put into place were for reason and most of the lawmakers in North Carolina are depriving people of their rights to marriage and love and a family. Everything about this new “law” is a joke and it is completely unconstitutional because it is endorsed by nothing but pure religious standpoint which is also protected in our U.S Constitution. Even if marriage wasn’t allowed in the state of North Carolina we should allow for homosexual couples to have a chance to be treated equally by the government and they should be awarded a union. This is not an emotional argument but its a very legitimate argument. The State should know how illegal this is and also how unfair it is to homosexual couples.

  10. I don’t like the wording of the bill even though I do not agree with the idea of same sex “marriage”. I do think there should be some sort of legal binding union for people of the same sex who wish to make that commitment. As for the idea that a gay man or lesbian woman should have the right to marry, they have the same rights that I do as a heterosexual man. I can legally marry a woman, I cannot legally marry another man. There is nothing preventing a gay man from legally marrying a woman.

  11. legislators are just tripping over each other to prove their GOP purity, and what easier, better way than to squash the rights of an unpopular group? but the writing is on the wall …

    they love the welcome distraction away from real issues like unemployment.

  12. and for testy, who says a gay man can legally marry a woman. what do you think marriage is, other than the commitment of two people who love each other? yes, i can legally marry someone i don’t love, how big of you. plus, i’ve seen over and over what happens when a gay man marries a woman (usually because of family pressure, or a desire to be something you’re not). it’s the woman and possibly children who really suffer. so please scratch that arguement from your case against gay marriage, it’s cruel and inhuman.

    ps i’ve been with my partner for 36 years; my two straight brothers have 7 marriages between them. sanctity of marriage indeed. why aren’t you arguing to outlaw divorce?

  13. If you live in the Bible Belt (North Carolins for you slow people) and you don’t like it then move somewhere else. Like NY or SF. I am tired of hearing about your rights what about mine. Maybe I don’t want to see it. FOR THE LAST TIME GOD MADE ADAM AND EVE NOT ADAM AND STEVE !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  14. to my knowledge it would be ruled as unconstitutional because it can’t pass the appropriate tests. Same thing with the fact that Atheists can’t run for office in the State of North Carolina, although that would be considered unconstitutional based on the Lemon test fromt eh 1973 Lemon vs Kurtzman Supreme Court case.

  15. @Sherry You don’t have to see it. It’s pretty easy to turn your away. You’re entitled to your opinion, however no one should have to move to another state just to marry someone they love. You would find it ridiculous if you had to do so. Also who travels to another state to get a divorce? No one. There isn’t any concrete reasoning as to why same sex marriage/rights should not be legalized in NC. Everyone should learn to separate their opinions from EQUAL RIGHTS of all. No one should have the “right” to choose whom anyone can marry

  16. The NC House and Senate votes amplify the lack of understanding our elected leaders have of the Equal Protection clause found in the Constitution of this great nation. LGBT folks in NC may have lost a battle here today, but we are not yet defeated!

    Primary elections tend to be decided by the 23-26% of registered voters that bother to go to the polls. So the key for the LGBT community is to rally the voters; the ones most likely to support and understand that the principles of equality should not be infringed due to mob-rule in the voting booth. In addition to encouraging LGBT folks to get out and vote in May, you should to reach out to young voters, college students and Hispanics… this segment of voters showed up en masse in 2008 and made a difference.

  17. Its amazing how a country that is supposed to represent freedom is getting closer to representing WWII Nazi Germany and Iran in some states. There was a time when some straight men and women were forbidden to marry as it was against the law for Blacks and Whites to do so. And if they did even the children would suffer in some states. Is this what we are lead to believe? That “God hates fags” and anyone who is not a Christian should be descriminated against? Will there be an anti-Jew bill and an anti-Muslim bill or anti- Hindu and Pagan bill? Will camps be built to slaughter these people while crosses burn on thei lawns? This is NOT God’s work. This is the work of bigots who want their old sheltered little world back. Well fine. You can have it. NYC could use the realestate boost!

  18. @SHERRY

    Exactly which of your legal rights is being stepped on when you allow gay marriages?

    If we’re following Biblical marriage, being that its the Bible Belt, then there goes the age of consent, polygamy is back in favor, and divorce is non-existent…are you ready to stand up for those beliefs?

  19. I said it before and I’ll KEEP saying it, until one of these Antigays can explain their bizarre desire to denigrate innocent Gay people, In The Name Of God” of all things:

    The Christian’s Jesus said very plainly: “Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s, and until God, that which is God”.

    God says “love thy neighbor as you would have them love you”.

    “Caesar” says “all men were created equal, with certain inalienable rights, among these are Life, Liberty, and The Pursuit of Happiness.




    POLYGAMISTS HAVE A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT CHALLENGE IN THE GOVERNMENT’S EYES. “Til death”. One dies, or wants a divorce, the ENTIRE marriage contract ends even if the remaining paramours wish to remain married as they console each other in their loss, unless the definition of marriage is changed radically.

    And it would affect divorce law, marriage rights, an even court rights: married couples can’t testify against one another. In a abusive polygamy situation, (usually run by some straight sexual predator, one spouse’s civil rights could be held prisoner by two others and the government’s job of protecting civil rights becomes easily thwarted here, as history has already shown us with the high profile polygamists out there.

    (“changing” marriage laws from being between 2 humans, to being between 2 humans…is no great leap, obviously…just one line on the paperwork. ONE.

    The vows we take are identical, the celebrations are varied, and no 2 marriages, ultimately, even end up being “the same”.

    So these “constitutional” bans, are only acts of relentless bullying, using false pretenses to make sure us gays know we are 3/5 American and not equal. Because “we’re icky”.

    That’s no basis for American law. Never was.

    Loving vs Virginia established marriage as a permanent civil right; one reason why straight serial killers may court and marry, even while in jail. (Yet NO “Constitutional” amendment to “Protect” it from actual dangers to society?

    Who do these Antigays think they’re fooling with their insidious mockery of love God, and marriage, supported by lies and unbridled sexual elitism..

    There is a test of faith and God going on, but it is not innocent loving gay households, (who merely wish to live at least as freely as our neighbors)…failing it~.

    In the Name of GOD no less.

    Antigays are nothing but H8er/tr8tors, wearing pious “christian” suits. Just the sorts that ticked Jesus off in The Marketplace.

    Something for all you rabid AntiGod/antigays to think about as you trample both the 10 commandments (no mention of gays, but much mention of coveting, lying, false witnessing etc.) AND the Constitution, with equally animus driven abandon.

  20. Every person that voted for the bills passage needs to be put on TV with biggot plastered over their image! See how name calling can hurt!! Let the world know how much hate there is and is sanctioned by elite…did they not go see “The Help?” Oh that would require a conscience – oops my bad

  21. Arizona faced a very costly boycott after our state house and senate passed SB1070 (the anti-illegal alien bill), which resulted in several other similar bills being voted down this year, in houses with even larger GOP majorities. North Carolina, you are going to face your own boycott now, and it will be costly to you. Boycotts work. Enjoy yours.

  22. Sherry, not only did god make adam and Eve its obvious that he also made Adam and Steve. Why do you think there are gay people you dumba**

  23. At work, people wonder why I dont stand during the pledge of allegiance…this is why! Why should I stand up or a country, that doesn’t stand up for me. Why should I pledge my heart and soul to a country that sees me as a disease that needs to be eradicated, an ugly dust particle that should be swept away like trash. There is a statement made, in the above article, where one of the legislators says that Apologies will have to be made in the near future. Count on that, because it will happen as I stand listening to those apologies, I will turn a deaf ear. Because then the time for reparations will be TOO LATE!

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