ByÂ Cheryl Wetzstein-The Washington Times
A North Carolina bill to allow voters a chance to define marriage in their state constitution goes to the stateÂ Senate on Tuesday, after passing the state House.
The 75-42 vote followed a lengthy debate, dominated by opponents of the amendment.
If it passes, it will go on the May 2012 ballot.
North Carolina is the only Southeastern state without voter-approved language in the state constitution that defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman.
House Majority LeaderÂ Paul Stam, a Republican and lead sponsor of the bill, led off Mondayâ€™s debate by noting that one of the first laws in the state was that marriage was between a man and a woman.
This amendment needs to go before the voters because they need to decide what is marriage, not judges in courts, saidÂ Mr. Stam. Iowa, he added, once had a law like North Carolinaâ€™s that said marriage was only between a man and a woman, but theÂ Iowa Supreme Court struck it down and allowed gay marriage. â€œFolks, we are in the same situation,â€ he said.
â€œPeople want to voteâ€ on this definition of marriage, said Speaker Pro TemporeÂ Dale R. Folwell, another Republican supporter.
But for most of three hours, Democratic members decried the amendment, calling it â€œunconscionable,â€ â€œextremeâ€ and reminiscent of the stateâ€™s discrimination against blacks.
This â€œcontemptibleâ€ bill â€œtakes our state backwardsâ€ in terms of respecting people, said stateÂ Rep. Deborah K. Ross. This bill â€œis not God, not even close,â€ said openly gay Rep. Marcus Brandon.
The amendment now goes to the stateÂ Senate, where three-fifths of that chamber must pass it if it is to go to voters. The governor cannot veto the bill.
The amendment, which was passed by a House committee earlier on Monday, says that marriage between one man and one woman â€œis the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this state.â€ It clarifies that it does not prohibit private parties from entering into contracts.
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