BY NOREEN FAGAN – There is nothing like the threat of same-sex marriage to scare lawmakers into action.For the first time in 140 years, Republicans are in charge of
the North Carolina legislature, and on Monday, Sept 12, they made the southern
state the newest battleground in the fight to ban gay marriage.
Although there is already a ban in place, Republicans are worried a court could find the law unconstitutional. They met Monday to
debate a proposed amendment that would let voters decide if the state law, which defines marriage
as between one man and one woman, should be written into the state constitution.
House majority leader Rep Paul Stam tried to stir fear and anxiety, expressing his concern that gay Americans who have been allowed to marry in other states might now move to North Carolina.
"They’re going to bring with them their same-sex
marriages. They’re going to want to get divorced and have custody issues
decided. We’re not equipped to handle that,” said Stem.
His scare tactics seem to have worked.
The Huffington Post
reports that just five hours after the bill was put forward, North Carolina’s House of
Representatives approved legislation to make the issue a ballot question in May
It now moves to the state Senate, which is expected
to debate the amendment on Tuesday, Sept 13. A News &
Observer report says the House and Senate
must approve the proposal by a three-fifths votes.
If the measure passes and is then approved by voters next May, North Carolina would become the
final southeast state to add a constitutional amendment effectively banning same-sex marriage.
Even though the proposal passed, there were, according to gay-rights advocacy group Equality North Carolina (ENC), some powerful
arguments against the measure.
Republican Larry Womble said: “This proposed
piece of legislation is clearly an example of discrimination. It is
discrimination in its highest form… We’ve been so silent on some of the
atrocities committed in this state against other people, human beings; the only
difference is it might be the texture of their hair, the pigmentation of their
skin or the colour of their eyes. We are again today discriminating against
people who are citizens. They are not criminals. They’ve not broken any laws.
North Carolina is bigger than this. North Carolina is better than this. We need
to rise to the occasion as we have done before when there’s been issues that
are not right and not fair.”
Whatever happens, the proposed ban has triggered a widespread debate involving everyone from the clergy to businesspeople, not to mention gay rights groups that are fighting for their voices to be heard.
ENC has already distributed nearly
50,000 postcards to legislators with the message “Keep discrimination out of NC.” The ENC is calling for a rally to be held this week.
They might be fighting for the
impossible, but at least they are fighting.