Latest efforts by North Carolina leftists to mainstream homosexual lifestyles succeeded this week in the North Carolina General Assembly. Senate Bill 526 was sold to lawmakers under the pretense of stopping bullies in our schools. Under the guise of standing up for victimized children, the bill’s advocates successfully convinced the narrowest majority to include sexual orientation for the first time in a state statute.
Misleadingly titled the “School Violence Prevention Act,” the bill began its journey during the last legislative session. Despite passing the House during the 2007 long session, the bill languished in the Senate and was never passed into law.
The left has argued this bill is a way to protect children from bullies by listing specific categories of the victims who should be protected. Inclusion of sexual orientation in these enumerated categories became the battle that would rage in the halls of the Legislature for the next two years. When the bill was reintroduced this session, the bill sponsors tried a different strategy. They began the process in the very chamber that had blocked it previously – the NC Senate – and by having the only openly homosexual member of the Legislature, Sen. Julia Boseman (D-New Hanover), sponsor it.
Sponsors of the bullying bill had obviously done their homework by planning well in advance ways to keep the bill from being amended after it left the Senate. One small change in the Senate Mental Health and Youth Services Committee changed the entire title of the bill. The bill title was changed from 14 words to 274 words and essentially restated the text of the bill itself, thus preventing any changes from happening in the House.
This is an increasingly disturbing trend in the Legislature that has been used for a few controversial bills in the past. The use of this tactic effectively prevents lawmakers from amending bills once they leave committee and reduces solid debate had by the body. It is an undemocratic, and heavy-handed scheme, used by leadership that fears open and honest debate.
After adding the ridiculous title, the bill was approved by a Democratic majority vote of 25 to 22. A bipartisan group of Senate Republicans voted in opposition to it and were joined by Democratic Senators David Hoyle (D-Gaston), John Snow (D-Cherokee) and A.B. Swindell (D-Nash). Senate Republican leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) attempted to amend the bill, but was thwarted with a parliamentary maneuver by the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Boseman.
Once in the House, the fight began to pick up pace. The bill was referred to the House Education committee. House Republicans attempted to remove language in the bill that would establish legal recognition for “sexual orientation” and “gender identity.” House Minority Leader, Rep. Paul Stam (R-Wake) offered a substitute bill twice, and Rep. Nelson Dollar (R-Wake) offered to amend the title of the bill. Their efforts were defeated by the Committee Chairman, Rep. Larry Bell (D-Sampson) who, contrary to House Rules, would not allow amendments or committee substitutes for the bill.
The bill was next heard in the House Judiciary I Committee where it was passed by a vote of 9 to 5. Several arguments were made against the bill, but to no avail. (As a side note, committee votes are rarely written down and are typically done by a voice vote unless a member of the committee calls for the “ayes and noes.” As such, vote totals reported here come from eyewitness accounts of the author).
During the House floor debate on the bill, a number of the bill’s supporters went to extreme lengths to try and tie opposition to the bill variously as anti-Semitism, racism, immorality and lynching. In an effort to goad members into supporting the bill, speakers on the left crossed the lines of respect, good taste and decorum by continuing to advance a shrill line of attack against the opposition.
The primary backer of the bill in the House, Rep. Rick Glazier (D-Cumberland) has become the quarterback of the left and has been directing the assault on traditional values with several bills this session. Unfortunately for conservatives, he has been very successful and currently drives the liberal legislative agenda in Raleigh. During the debate, Glazier compared religious tolerance with the sexual orientation provisions in the bill.
Opponents of the bill made several solid arguments against its passage. Rep. John Blust (R-Guilford) questioned how the bill would prevent bullying without punishment for the bullies. Rep. Stam noted the intent clause at the end of the bill. Supporters of the bill claim the intent clause will prevent any part of the bill to be used as a legal basis for additional gay rights such as same-sex marriage. Stam went on to point out that a similar clause was placed in the Iowa bullying bill and later used by activist judges to void that state’s ban on gay marriage. Rep. Jonathan Rhyne (R-Lincoln) decried the length of the title and said the practice of using unamendable titles was, “unfair and demeans the legislative process.” He then moved to have the bill re-referred to the education committee. That motion failed by a vote of 57 for and 59 against.
The initial vote for passage of the House was also 59 for and 57 against. The notable votes were the seven House Democrats that voted against the bill: Representatives Van Braxton (D-Lenoir), William Brisson (D-Bladen), Jim Crawford (D-Granville), Jimmie Love (D-Lee), Time Spear (D-Washington), Ronnie Sutton (D-Robeson) and Arthur Williams (D-Beaufort). (With the exception of Sutton and Crawford, they all tended to be from rural, swing districts.) Only one Republican voted for the bill; Rep. Jamie Boles (R-Moore).
Representatives Larry Hall (D-Durham) and Ruth Samuelson (R-Mecklenburg) were absent from the chamber for the vote, and in accordance with custom, Speaker Joe Hackney did not vote on the bill. (Speakers have traditionally only voted in order to break a tie.)
One member was present but decided to abstain from voting: Rep. Ray Warren (D-Alexander.)
The final vote on the bill was held the next day after numerous attempts by both sides to convince lawmakers to switch their vote. Stam attempted to amend the bill but had his amendment ruled out of order by the Speaker. Blust attempted to amend the bill by adding punishment for the bully but the amendment was defeated. Rep. Hugh Blackwell proposed an amendment to provide penalties for teachers and staff who failed to protect students from bullying but, he too, saw his amendment go down in defeat. Rep. Laura Wiley (R-Guilford) attempted to amend the bill by adding bullying by gangs to the bill, but was ruled out of order by the Speaker.
As the final vote approached, Glazier made the most ironic statement of the day when he said he “appreciated the tenor of the debate.”
The final vote was closer than the first. While Rep. Dewey Hill (D-Columbus) and Boles switched their votes from yes to no, Sutton (who had previously voted no) did not vote and Brisson was absent while being treated at a local hospital for a sudden illness. Warren took another walk and did not vote. So, despite the fact that opponents of the bill managed to get two votes to switch, the bill was still passed by a vote of 58 to 57 when Hackney voted to break the tie. The bill now goes to the Governor, who is expected to sign it.
The strategy by which the homosexual lobby managed to pass this bill is notable. They played to their strengths and used numerous parliamentary tactics to keep the bill from being amended despite the fact that a large number of Democrats in the Legislature are elected by conservative voters. This will not be the last bill considered by the Legislature from the homosexual wish list. Conservatives of both parties need to learn a lesson here on how the process can be used to pass a bill with as little debate as possible.