Last week, the North Carolina Senate passed a motion to amend the state constitution with a measure effectively banning “marriage, civil unions, domestic partnerships and other relationship recognition” between members of the same sex. The measure, which passed the North Carolina House 75-42, squeaked by the Senate with a 30-14 tally (barely achieving the required 3/5 majority). The measure will now appear on the May 2012 ballot.
“Moms and dads are not interchangeable,” said primary sponsor Sen. James Forrester in his opening statement. “Two dads don’t make a mom. Two moms don’t make a dad. Children need both a father and a mother.”
The measure, however, faced fierce and vocal opposition from a large portion of the state’s Senate.
“Rome is burning,” argued Sen. Josh Stein against the amendment. “We are on the edge of a double-dip recession. Yet, we’ve been called back to this special session to the cost of $50,000 a day not to improve our economy, not even to alleviate the suffering of those down east. No, we are here because some of you want to graft onto our constitution controversial and discriminatory legislation.”
This reactionary measure comes in the midst of the ever-strengthening nationwide LGBT equality movement. Yesterday, President Obama officially repealed “don’t ask, don’t tell,” to cheers and celebration across the country.
“We are not a nation that says, ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell,’” declared the President. “We are a nation that says ‘Out of many, we are one.”
In fact, North Carolina’s recent discriminatory push inspired Congress to strengthen the fight for equality. In the wake of the amendment’s announcement, Rep. Brad Miller (D-N.C.) and Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) signed on to co-sponsor the Respect for Marriage Act, federal legislation overturning the Defense of Marriage Act. Reps. Jim Langevin (D-R.I.) and Tim Walz (D-Minn.) are also recent additions to the initiative. President Obama has also voiced his support for the bill.
The Washington Blade inquired to the White House whether President Obama would oppose the North Carolina Measure. In response to the inquiry, Shin Inouye, a White House spokesperson, issued the following statement:
“The President has long believed that gay and lesbian couples deserve the same rights and legal protections as straight couples. That’s why he has called for repeal of the so-called ‘Defense of Marriage Act’ and determined that his Administration would no longer defend the constitutionality of DOMA in the courts. He has also said that the states should determine for themselves how best to uphold the rights of their own citizens.”
Continued Inouye, “While the President does not weigh in on every single action taken by legislative bodies in our country, the record is clear that the President has long opposed divisive and discriminatory efforts to deny rights and benefits to same sex couples. The President believes strongly in stopping laws designed to take rights away.”
Much is at stake as Congress looks toward 2012, and many hold out the hope that President Obama will slowly but surely pave the way for LGBT equality nationwide.