Republican leaders in the state House of Representatives held a news conference today to push for the passage of legislation that will put before voters a state constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. The issue is one of several constitutional amendments the legislature will take up when it returns for a week beginning Sept. 12.
House Speaker Pro Tem Dale Folwell, a Republican from Winston-Salem, said there has long been support in the General Assembly for such an amendment, and that the time has come to let people decide.
“It’s time we settled this issue,” Folwell said at the news conference in the Legislative Building. “People in favor of this will live or die by how the people of North Carolina feel about it. … Power needs to be pushed away from this building and back to the people.”
North Carolina already has a law on the books defining marriage as between a man and a woman. Backers of amending the constitution say doing so would help protect the law from being changed by future legislatures, and from court rulings such as those that have occurred recently in other states. House Majority Leader Paul “Skip” Stam, an Apex Republican, said Gov. Bev Perdue as a legislator supported North Carolina's law. But, he said, she has recently been calling Democratic members of the General Assembly asking them to vote against it.
Stam and Folwell said the amendment wouldn’t have any effect on whether private companies choose to recognize same-sex unions. Stam said the amendment “protects the children of the next generation.
“In countries around the world where they have legitimized same-sex marriage, marriage itself is de-legitimized,” Stam said. “… About a fourth of the world allows polygamy. Polygamy would be next.”
In response to a question, Stam said the issue is different from laws that once banned interracial marriage. “Misegenation laws never had a basis in morality,” he said. “… People can’t change their race. They can’t choose their race. There was no biological basis to begin with.”
Update: N.C.Democratic Party Chairman David Parker weighed in with this response:
“The reality is that this amendment will not put one person back to work, it will not help one small business keep its doors open and it will not assist one single citizen now trying to recover from the devastation inflicted by Hurricane Irene. The Republicans in the General Assembly have made it clear that their intention is to turn back the clock on our economy by pushing divisive social issues—talk about misplaced priorities. This amendment will only stifle job creation and hinder our economic recovery.”
Update: House Minority Leader Joe Hackney released this statement:
"This proposed constitutional amendment runs against the tide of history, and has become a form of hate speech. Modern corporations do not tolerate this kind of discrimination and neither should our state. But many of us recognize this unneeded amendment is not about rights or morality. It is part of the Republican political strategy to drive Republicans to the polls in 2012 while suppressing Democratic voting through voter ID legislation and cutbacks in early voting."