Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Bill filed to ban gay marriage in N.C. : News-Record.com : Greensboro, North Carolina

Bill filed to ban gay marriage in N.C. : News-Record.com : Greensboro, North Carolina

By Mark Binker
Staff Writer
Senate Bill 272: Defense of Marriage

What it does: The bill would put a constitutional amendment in front of voters to define marriage as between one man and one woman. That definition is already a state law.

Status: The bill has been assigned to the Ways and Means Committee, which has not met in years. Supporters expect to file a similar bill in the House on Thursday.

Who’s responsible: The primary sponsor is Sen. Jim Forrester of Stanley. Local co-sponsors include Republican Sens. Phil Berger of Rockingham, Stan Bingham of Davidson County and Jerry Tillman of Randolph County.
Related Links

* Capital Beat (blog)



North Carolina would add a prohibition on gay marriage to the state constitution under legislation filed this week and met with great fanfare Tuesday by religious and social conservative activists.

However, the fate of the bill filed by Sen. Jim Forrester, a Stanley Republican, and a similar one due to be filed by House backers Thursday is far from certain. Democrats control both the House and Senate and the top leaders in those chambers expressed reluctance to allow either measure to proceed.

“This bill has great meaning to the faith community,” Republican Sen. Jim Jacumin said in a news conference that was well attended by Catholic and Protestant ministers. “This amendment will ensure that marriage will be that which God designed.”

Other backers said there are secular reasons to worry about “nontraditional” marriage, primarily marriages between two women or two men.

It would be possible, they point out, for a same-sex couple to marry in Massachusetts and then come back to North Carolina and sue to be recognized.

“It only takes one liberal judge to overturn our statutes and usher in same-sex marriage without a vote of the legislature and without a vote of the people of our state,” Forrester said.

Backers claim broad support for a marriage amendment. The JWP Civitas Institute, a conservative think tank that supports the ban, said that 76 percent of respondents to a recent poll favored adding a gay marriage ban to the state constitution.

And other states surrounding North Carolina have approved similar constitutional prohibitions by healthy margins, supports say, leaving North Carolina as the only state in the South without a constitutional ban on same-sex marriages.

There is, however, a North Carolina state law that defines marriage as between one man and one woman, something that legislative leaders say has proved sufficient thus far.

“There’s no reason to think that’s going to change,” said House Speaker Joe Hackney, an Orange County Democrat. “What I think you see happening with these news conferences is the advancement of a partisan agenda.”

In 2007, Hackney used his power as Speaker to kill a similar bill in the House that had managed to pass its first committee hearing. When asked if he would do the same again this year, Hackney said, “I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.”

Senate leader Marc Basnight also was skeptical about the need for such a bill. When asked if he worried North Carolina’s marriage law could be overturned, Basnight said, “No one has shown me that could occur.”

Asked Tuesday afternoon if Forrester’s bill would be doomed to the same fate as in previous years, Basnight was noncommittal.

“Will it come up? I can’t say,” Basnight said.

But he assigned the bill to Ways and Means, a committee that has not met since 2001 and is controlled by one of Basnight’s chief deputies. Assigning a bill there is viewed as an efficient way to kill legislation.

Local legislators split on the measure.

Rep. Laura Wiley, a High Point Republican, says she supports taking it up, even as the legislature struggles with a ballooning budget gap and other pressing issues.

“We are down here to spend time on things that are important to people,” Wiley said.

But Rep. Hugh Holliman, a Lexington Democrat, said he does not favor taking up the bill.

“I don’t think it needs doing,” Holliman said. “I’ve never heard of anyone trying to do a same sex marriage in our state ... I think it’s a lot of posturing over nothing.”

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