Dome has learned tonight that a third version of the same-sex marriage amendment has been hashed out and will come up in a Senate judiciary committee meeting Monday afternoon.
It's not clear when the General Assembly leadership was going to let people know that, because the bill that's listed on the agenda for that meeting now is the proposed constitutional amendment to limit the terms of the speaker of the House and president pro tem of the Senate. But the plan is to strip out the term limit language and turn that bill into the gay marriage amendment bill.
Why they're doing it that way rather than rewriting either the House or Senate versions of the bill that already exist is unclear. Also unclear is what happens to the term limits bill, which both Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger and House Speaker Thom Tillis said would be voted on next week.
The House bill would have defined marriage between a man and a woman as the only legal marriage in the state. The Senate version defined it as the only legal union, potentially invalidating domestic partnerships recognized for a variety of reasons. This new version adds language meant to protect domestic partner rights -- just don't call it marriage.
That's not going to mollify gay-rights groups. We'll see what the General Assembly does with it.
It's interesting to note that the Senate calendar for Monday was posted online late Friday afternoon, with notice of the term limits bill scheduled for the judiciary committee meeting. The notice said anyone from the public wanting to speak at the meeting had to sign up between 1 and 1:30 p.m. Monday.
Shortly after, this third version of the bill was emailed to committee members, according to the time stamp on a copy of the proposal provided to The News & Observer. But as of late Friday, anyone looking at the calendar online would not know that the topic of the meeting was actually the same-sex marriage amendment and not term limits.
Update: Berger's chief of staff, Jim Blaine, said late tonight there was no intention to deceive the public or hide the bill.
"There are many proposed versions of the amendment," Blaine wrote in an email. "The senate j1 committee has calendared the current proposed committee substitute of the bill for a hearing Monday. The bill would go through the committee process like any other piece of legislation and be subject to change and revision during the process like any other piece of legislation."
He said it was likely a new committee notice would be sent out to clarify.
Meanwhile, Rep. Rick Glazier, a Fayetteville Democrat, said the third version of the bill "doesn't clear up much of anything."
Saturday update: Sen. Pete Brunstetter just sent out an email correcting Monday’s Senate Judiciary I Committee calendar to reflect that the term limits bill scheduled for discussion is actually the same-sex marriage amendment bill. A copy of the proposed committee substitute was included.
Anyone interested in speaking must sign up between 1 and 1:30 p.m. in Room 643 at the Legislative Office Building. The meeting begins at 1:30 p.m. Speakers will be limited to three minutes each.
Also, word is that the term limits bill will still come up for a vote. Swapping out the language was a procedural matter meant to accommodate General Assembly rules