UPDATED: Legislators aim to make same-sex marriage illegal
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include a comment from Rep. Larry Pittman and House Speaker Tim Moore.
By Josh Bergeron
SALISBURY — Four state legislators, including one from Rowan County, introduced a bill Tuesday that aims to outlaw same-sex marriage.
The measure, known as House Bill 780, says the U.S. Supreme Court in 2015 exceeded its authority when it ruled that denying marriage to same-sex couples is unconstitutional. The bill would amend North Carolina law to declare the court’s decision “null and void.” It’s titled the Uphold Historical Marriage Act.
Primary sponsors of the bill are Reps. Carl Ford, R-China Grove; Larry Pittman, R-Concord; and Michael Speciale R-New Bern. The lone co-sponsor is Rep. Mike Clampitt, R-Bryson City.
At one page long, the bill starts by citing the 10th Amendment, which says the federal government has only those powers specifically delegated to it by the U.S. Constitution. States, therefore, have the authority to establish laws related to marriage, the bill states. Later, it quotes the Bible when saying the Supreme Court exceeded its authority.
“A man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh,” the bill says, quoting Genesis 2:24.
When asked about his decision to support the bill, Ford spoke extensively about a constitutional amendment approved by North Carolina voters in 2012. Known as Amendment One, the measure said that marriage between a man and a woman was the only “domestic legal union” recognized by the state. It was later overturned in federal court.
“This was the people of the state speaking,” Ford said. “Should a judge, or sometimes it’s a panel of judges, overrule a majority of the state?”
In 2012, Amendment One passed with support of 74 percent of voters who cast ballots in Rowan County and 61 percent across North Carolina. Statewide turnout for the election was 35 percent, meaning Amendment One received support from a majority of people who cast ballots rather than a majority of state voters.
Ford said he has recently spoken to a number of his constituents who expressed support for limiting marriage to between a man and women.
“This is us doing what the voters want,” Ford said about House Bill 780.
He quoted one constituent who asked, “What can we do about these rogue judges?”
From gerrymandering to voter identification, judges and state legislators have sparred frequently in recent history. Ford said the judicial decision to overturn North Carolina’s same-sex marriage ban “really put them over the limit” because voters approved the 2012 constitutional amendment.
Federal judges declared the marriage amendment unconstitutional in October 2014. After a number of cases in lower courts, the U.S. Supreme Court in 2015 found same-sex marriage to be constitutional.
In part, Ford said his support arises from his personal beliefs. Ford said America was founded on Judeo-Christian values. But he cited recent judicial rulings as the most significant factor.
In an emailed statement, Pittman echoed many of the same arguments made by Ford when asked about House Bill 780.
“As the bill states, marriage is not a federal matter,” Pittman said. “For too long, the federal government and federal courts have been allowed to overstep their bounds because the states have not had the courage to say no. Upholding the U.S. and N.C. constitutions means demanding that laws and court rulings do not contradict the very constitutions we are obligated to uphold.”
It’s unclear whether the the bill will make it through the legislature or even receive serious consideration. If it makes it to the governor’s desk, it’s sure to receive a veto.
Gov. Roy Cooper expressed his opposition on Twitter within hours of the bill’s introduction.
“This bill is wrong,” Cooper said on Twitter. “We need more LGBT protections, not fewer.”
The N.C. Democratic Party also made its opposition known.
“Republicans in the General Assembly seem to have a special talent for embarrassing themselves and our state,” state Democratic Party Chairman Wayne Goodwin said in an emailed statement. “Instead of wasting their time on hateful, discriminatory and clearly unconstitutional legislation, they should be working with Gov. Cooper to improve our schools and cut taxes for the middle class.”
The N.C. ACLU also announced its opposition to House Bill 780, saying lawmakers cannot defy the U.S. Supreme Court.
House Speaker Tim Moore even expressed opposition to the proposal saying explicitly that the bill won’t receive serious consideration.
“There are strong constitutional concerns with this legislation given that the U.S. Supreme Court has firmly ruled on this issue,” Moore said in an emailed statement on Wednesday. “Therefore, House Bill 780 will be referred to the House Rules Committee and will not be heard.”
Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.