Recent court actions in California have led a bipartisan group of lawmakers to reintroduce a bill to add an amendment to the North Carolina Constitution that defines the union of marriage as being between one man and one woman at one time.
Representatives Jim Crawford (D-Granville), Ruth Samuelson (R-Mecklenburg), Earline Parmon (D-Forsyth) and David Lewis (R-Harnett) are sponsors of the bill that, as of Wednesday morning, had 68 sponsors in the House. The bill was unveiled at a press conference at the Legislature with Reps. Lewis and Samuelson, minority leader Skip Stam (R-Wake), Senator Jim Forrester (R-Gaston), John Rustin of the NC Family Policy Council, Monsignor Michael Clay of the Catholic Diocese of Raleigh and Reverend Mark Creech of the Christian Action League.
Currently, North Carolina is the only southern state to have taken no action to constitutionally protect marriage. Legislative leaders have stated that there is no need for the amendment since current North Carolina statute already defines marriage. This, of course, is a weak argument because California had the same state law overturned by a liberal activist judge. The law could also be changed by a simple vote of the Legislature, whereas a constitutional amendment requires a change via the constitutional process which requires voter approval.
Neighboring states have already passed similar amendments to their constitutions by wide margins. Virginia’s voters approved the protection of marriage by 57%, South Carolina by 74%, while Tennesee hit 81%. North Carolina’s voters have shown their support in polls on the issue. As it happens, this very organization polls on the topic frequently and the May 2008 Civitas Decisionmaker poll of likely voters found that 71% support protecting marriage. The poll also found even more support amongst African American voters at 86%. Given that well over 85% of African Americans are registered as Democrats, protecting marriage enjoys widespread support across racial and partisan lines.
The irony is that, while the leadership has refused to give prior identical bills even a committee hearing, the House also voted yesterday to identify gays as a protected class by reinserting language into HB 1366 (School Bullying) that the Senate deleted last year. So North Carolina will become the only state in the South to deny the people a vote to protect marriage while also defining homosexuals as a group with extra protections.
The Reverend Creech made the most poignant comparison of the day when he pointed out how much rhetoric legislative leaders have spewed in the past about the absolute need to allow voters to have a say in approving a lottery. Meanwhile marriage is not important enough of an issue to put before the voters.