Last updated: 9/13/2011, 11:49 p.m.

RALEIGH, N.C. — Members of the North Carolina Senate barely passed a motion Tuesday afternoon to place an anti-LGBT constitutional amendment on the ballot in May 2012. The body began debate shortly after noon and ended at 1:22 p.m. The final vote tally, 30-16, barely met the three-fifths majority needed for the measure to pass. The measure gained prior approval in the state’s House on Monday.

Opening debate, primary sponsor Sen. James Forrester (R-Gaston) said he was thankful to get the opportunity to hear his bill.

“This is the eighth year I put in this bill,” Forrester said. “The bill never had a hearing. I’m very happy to have this bill before us at the time.”

Forrester said the amendment was intended to defend the “an institution in our society based upon the complementary male and female loin.”

“Moms and dads are not interchangeable,” Forrester continued. “Two dads don’t make a mom. Two moms don’t make a dad. Children need both a father and a mother.”

Republican Sen. Dan Soucek also stood to defend the bill. He said marriage was under attack and said the bill would help prevent the “breakdown of the family.”

Democrat Ellie Kinnaird, who represents Orange County, refuted Soucek. “Gays aren’t the ones causing damage to marriage,” she said.

Sen. Josh Stein (D-Wake) said this week’s special session was unnecessary.

“Why are we here? Rome is burning. We are on the edge of a double-dip recession,” he said. “Yet, we’ve been called back to this special session to the cost of $50,000 a day not to improve our economy, not even to alleviate the suffering of those down east. No, we are here because some of you want to graft onto our constitution controversial and discriminatory legislation.”

Stein continued in debate, outlining North Carolina’s history of discriminatory constitutional amendments. “This is the unfortunate history of social issues in our constitution,” he said. “None have stood the test of time.”

Sen. William Purcell, a Democrat who represents rural Anson, Richmond, Scotland and Stanly Counties, also spoke out against the amendment, saying it was misguided.

“If we are really serious about preserving traditional marriage, we need to concentrate our efforts…on those things that are a real threat to traditional marriage in North Carolina,” he said. “One of those is a high divorce rate, which is somewhere between 40 and 50 percent, domestic violence and child and spousal abuse and drug and alcohol abuse which has wrecked so many marriages in this state.”

Purcell said the amendment would “do nothing to preserve traditional marriage.”

Asheville’s Sen. Martin Nesbitt (D) took direct aim at the bill’s primary sponsor.

“I’ve served with Sen. Forrester since he got here and I’ve always considered him a gentleman and a scholar. I appreciate my service with him and he drags this bill up and the next thing I’m reading is that he’s declared my community a cesspool of sin,” Nesbitt said in response to Forrester’s comments regarding Asheville last week. “I tell you what, mountain people are getting a little tired of people sitting down here throwing darts at them.”

Republican Sen. E.S. Newton (Nash, Wilson) asked his colleagues to “get real,” and said comparisons of the anti-LGBT amendment to North Carolina’s racist past and to Nazi Germany were unacceptable. He said the amendment would protect North Carolinians from “judicial fiat from somewhere else by politically-appointed judges who decide they are going to impose their own will on society.”

Republicans control the Senate 31 to 19. The final tally represented a straight, party-line vote. Four senators — three Democrats and one Republican — did not vote; they each had excused absences in the Senate today.

The White House responded to the amendment vote, after an inquiry by Washington Blade political reporter Chris Johnson.

“The President has long believed that gay and lesbian couples deserve the same rights and legal protections as straight couples,” spokesperson Shin Inouye said. “That’s why he has called for repeal of the so-called ‘Defense of Marriage Act’ and determined that his Administration would no longer defend the constitutionality of DOMA in the courts. He has also said that the states should determine for themselves how best to uphold the rights of their own citizens.”

Inouye statment continued, “While the President does not weigh in on every single action taken by legislative bodies in our country, the record is clear that the President has long opposed divisive and discriminatory efforts to deny rights and benefits to same sex couples. The President believes strongly in stopping laws designed to take rights away.”

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.

7 replies on “Senate passes anti-LGBT amendment; will appear on May 2012 ballot”

  1. So one Republican voted no? Or didn’t vote? If he had the courage to stand up to the bigots in his party, we should find out who he/she is and make sure that they have our thanks.

  2. So, Kelsey Grammer can end a 15-year marriage by phone, Larry King can be on divorce #9, Britney Spears had a 55-hour marriage, Kim Kardashian can be married for barely a week and rub it off like it never happened, Jesse James and Tiger Woods while married were having sex with EVERYONE, 53% of Americans get divorced, and 30-60% cheat on their spouses. Yet, same-sex marriage is going to destroy the institution of marriage? Really?

  3. The NC Senate has 50 members. With two Dems not voting due to excused absences, and two Repubs not voting (I’m assuming abstentions), then a STRICT party line vote would have been 29 – 17 when in fact, it’s 30 – 16. So, who is the lone Dem traitor?

  4. The two abstaining Republicans probably agreed to “pair” (ironic in this context, huh?) with the two excused Democrats. This means that, at a time before he/she expected to be absent for a vote, a member requested a member who would vote the other way to abstain, so the result of the vote would be the same as if they both voted. Even though it means cooperating with someone who disagrees on a particular vote, they do it as a courtesy because the mechanism is used frequently to allow members to be absent with no effect on a vote.

  5. Martin a lot of citizens in Buncombe are tired of how the Register of Deeds got appointed and that includes a lot of Dems and a lot of Dems do not like their Buncombe being taken over by progressives from Asheville. YOU have been in Raleigh too long. Spend some time with the Citizens and you will find out that a large majority of the Buncombe Citizens are tired of seeing chicken manure and being told it is chicken salad.

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