By L.A. Williams, Correspondent
Christian Action League
RALEIGH — If leaders of the N.C. House get their way, Tar Heel residents will have a chance to vote next fall on an amendment to the State Constitution that would clarify marriage as between one man and one woman.
“When you think about marriage you think about all that the government does to sanction marriage … the licensing process, the way that our tax laws are written, the way that our real estate laws are written and so many other ways,” said Rep. Dale Folwell (R-Forsyth), the Speaker Pro Tempore, during a Tuesday morning press conference. “… If the government is going to sanction marriage, then it needs to protect it.”
The event was to announce leaders’ support of Senate Bill 106, which is set to be considered when the General Assembly reconvenes Sept. 12.
“All we can say is Godspeed on this issue,” said the Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League. “We are asking our members to contact their lawmakers to support marriage.”
North Carolina is the only state in the Southeast without a marriage protection amendment in its constitution. Despite general statutes that prohibit same-sex marriage, Folwell and Majority Leader Paul Stam (R-Wake) pointed out that all it takes is one legislative vote or one ruling from one activist judge to make those laws null and void.
“Iowa, California, New York, Washington, D.C., …” Stam listed areas where gay marriage has been implemented against the will of the people and said North Carolina will soon be experiencing the fallout.
“It has become a practical problem,” he said. “When the president of the United States orders the Attorney General of the United States not to defend the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), we need to do what we can to defend our own statute.”
Stam and Folwell fielded reporters’ questions regarding fears that the constitutional amendment would discourage companies that offer benefits to same-sex couples from locating in North Carolina, assuring them that the Marriage Amendment would not affect private contracts, whether between individuals as in a power of attorney, or the benefit packages offered by private employers. In fact, eight of Forbes’ top 10 states for business have passed Constitutional Marriage Amendments, according to a handout provided by Rep. Stam.
Proposed repeatedly in the North Carolina General Assembly since 2003, Marriage Protection legislation has been ignored by the leadership until this year. While opponents claim Republicans seek to use it to their political advantage by drawing conservative voters to the November 2012 polls, Folwell argued the measure ought to be on the ballot when the most people are likely to vote – giving more people the opportunity to participate on the question.
Rev. Creech said that he felt the contention Republicans hope to gain some political advantage is a spurious one, noting that both Florida and California had Marriage Amendment Protection acts on the ballot during the November general election of 2008, but voted for Democrat President Barack Obama.
“The argument that somehow that putting this on the ballot in November does something to one party or another is just not backed up by facts,” Folwell said, adding, ” … The people who do not want this in November, I want you to tell me who it is you don’t want voting.”
In a press release explaining the need for the amendment, Stam and Folwell said it’s the Legislature’s responsibility to offer “long-term solutions to the issues facing North Carolina,” and that the only long-term solution to the marriage issue is to put the question to the voters.
Stam said Gov. Bev Perdue supported North Carolina’s 1996 DOMA law but has been urging Democrats to vote against a constitutional amendment.
“If we don’t have interference from the executive branch, we will easily pass this,” he added.
Folwell said it is simply time to put the ball in the air and hold lawmakers accountable as to whether they will keep the power to themselves or push it away from the Capitol and to the people.
“This issue has strong geographical support across this state; it has strong gender support across this state; it has strong support across racial lines and between generations,” Folwell said. “It’s time we put this decision to the people of this state.”
Unlike general statutes, constitutional amendments must receive a three-fifths vote in each chamber in order to appear on a ballot. If approved by the voters, the amendment would become law and would not be subject to the Governor’s signature or veto.
If you did not see this week’s Urgent Action Alert about the Marriage Protection Amendment, please click here