Tillis predicts gay marriage ban would be overturned
RALEIGH (AP) — House Speaker Thom Tillis is standing by a prediction that the proposed amendment to the North Carolina Constitution banning same-sex marriage will be narrowly approved by voters in May, only to be reversed within a generation.
Opponents of the ban seized on Tillis' comments, which were made Monday before a student group at North Carolina State University and first reported by Technician, the campus newspaper.
Tillis was quoted as predicting the amendment will pass with about 54 percent of the vote, but will be repealed within 20 years because young people are more supportive of marriage rights for same sex couples.
"It's a generational issue," Tillis, a Republican, was quoted as saying. "If it passes, I think it will be repealed within 20 years."
Tillis spokesman Jordan Shaw confirmed the speaker's comments were accurately reported. Shaw said Tillis still supports the GOP-backed measure, which he voted to put on the May 8 primary ballot.
But Shaw also acknowledged that Tillis has struggled to reconcile the proposed amendment with a philosophy of conservatism that frowns on government intrusion in personal lives.
"It's a tough issue for him," said Shaw, who added that if the amendment fails the issue will not be revived "as long as he is speaker."
State law already limits marriage to being between a man and a woman, but supporters of the amendment argue it is needed to strengthen the legal standing of traditional marriage in the courts.
Opponents of the amendment touted Tillis' comments as additional evidence the measure is rooted more in politics than moral conviction for some GOP leaders. Word of Tillis' comments came as news broke nationally that a major group backing state bans on gay marriage said in internal memos that its strategic goal is "to drive a wedge between gays and blacks — two key Democratic constituencies."
"Tillis' statement really points to the growing opposition against this amendment," said Jeremy Kennedy, the campaign manager for the group Protect All NC Families. "You have somebody who is one of their primary proponents is now having second thoughts about the necessity and longevity of the Constitutional rewrite."
Supporters of the amendment said Tuesday that Tillis' comments to the students were being "blown out of proportion."
"It was the speaker's leadership that helped get the Marriage Protection Amendment on the May 8th ballot, and that is the kind of leadership we are confident he will show the people of North Carolina leading up to the May 8th vote to protect marriage," said Tami Fitzgerald, chairwoman of the group Vote For Marriage NC.