02/16/11-by Bridgette P. LaVictoire
It should not be surprising given the recent ruling in Iowa that there are a slew of states pushing to have marriage inequality and bigotry enshrined in their state Constitutions. North Carolina is one of those states where the drive to show just how bigoted they are will probably lead to a constitutional amendment that could be rendered moot by the US Supreme Court sometime soon either with the overturning of the Defense of Marriage Act or the upholding of the ruling against Prop 8 in California.
Equality North Carolina has sent an alert warning that Republican state Senator James Forrester has started circulating an amendment in order to find co-sponsors for it. Ian Palmquist, the group’s executive director, informed Qnotes that he has not seen a copy of the amendment, but he does not believe that the text has changed a lot from the other times that it has been proposed.
The proposed constitutional amendment, held at bay for seven years by the formerly Democratically-controlled legislature, would not only ban recognition of same-sex marriages but any kind of relationship recognition for gay couples. The amendment could also ban private companies based in the state from offering domestic partner benefits.
The amendment must pass through the legislature and then be passed by a majority of the state’s voters. It must pass by a three-fifths majority in both houses. It is not clear if they will be able to meet that requirement since the House has 120 members- 67 Republicans and 52 Democrats with one Independent. The amendment would need 72 to pass. Passage is all but assured in the Senate where, out of 50 seats, the Republicans hold 31. Thirty would be needed to pass the amendment in that chamber.
So far, Palmquist has not heard if the bill had a companion in the House, and was not sure if it had been filed yet.
Forrester’s move comes just one day after Equality North Carolina held its annual Day of Action at the state legislature. Just under 200 people from across the state traveled to Raleigh to meet with their elected officials and discuss issues important to the LGBT community.
“We had a great turnout and people had a good experience talking to their legislators,” Palmquist said. “We found some opportunities I think to engage some new legislators on our issues.”
Marriage equality would still face a huge hurdle in North Carolina where the tendency has been to be more socially conservative. It is likely that, should this pass the Assembly, it will pass in a vote by the general public.