CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Two lawmakers made their cases Wednesday for or against a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage in North Carolina, wrangling before a group of budding lawyers in a debate that ended up drawing in Gov. Beverly Perdue.
House Majority Leader Paul Stam. R-Wake, and Minority Whip Rick Glazier, D-Cumberland, participated in a dialogue about the amendment question at the University of North Carolina law school in Chapel Hill. The Legislature last week agreed to place on next May’s ballots the proposed amendment to make marriage between a man and woman the only domestic legal union the state recognizes.
The amendment, if approved by a majority of voters, would also bar the state from recognizing civil unions and other same-sex partnerships. But companies would still be permitted to offer benefits to the same-sex partners of employees.
Glazier opposes the amendment that he said runs counter to values of pluralism and equality, and its supporters seek to deny love and commitment as values that gays and lesbians hold.
The state constitution “was not designed as a tool to divide citizens of this state one from another,” Glazier told participants. “The constitutional holds equality as an ideal, and the divisiveness and irrationality and fear at the heart of this amendment cannot be tolerated.”
Stam supports the amendment, which he said is designed to protect traditional marriage and the welfare of children.
“Everyone in this room would put some limit on who can marry whom,” Stam told the audience. “The question is, if there are going to be limits, what are they?”
Stam contended the amendment’s date was moved up by the Republican-led Legislature from November 2012 at Perdue’s insistence. Stam said Perdue “told a dozen Democrats they could vote for it if it was in May, but not November.”
Perdue Press Secretary Chris Mackey said the governor never encouraged legislators to put the amendment on any ballot but that she had been concerned Republicans were using the amendment process to sway the November 2012 election. Both Perdue and President Obama face difficult re-election bids, and a referendum was likely to draw social conservatives to vote.
Perdue “didn’t want the General Assembly to waste its time considering this unnecessary amendment at all,” Mackey wrote in an e-mail, but added “moving the amendment to the May ballot removed ONE of the governor’s objections.”
Perdue hasn’t said how she’ll vote on the amendment, focusing instead on criticizing the Republican-led Legislature for pushing what she has called a social agenda. At a year-end session with reporters last December, Perdue said she “thought for years what we have now serves the purpose” of defining marriage as between a man and a woman.
State law already defines marriage as between a man and a woman, but proponents of the amendment say it would help protect the law from legal challenges by same-sex married couples from other states.
About 20 amendment opponents protested before the Chapel Hill event.