'It's shocking': LGBTQ+ advocates in NC react to House bill codifying marriage rights

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Wednesday, July 20, 2022
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LGBTQ+ advocates in North Carolina were heartened by Tuesday's vote to codify same-sex and interracial marriage rights, which earned bipartisan support.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- LGBTQ+ advocates in North Carolina were heartened by Tuesday's vote to codify same-sex and interracial marriage rights, which earned bipartisan support.

"It was very powerful to see resounding passage of the Respect for Marriage Act and also such strong bipartisan support which really is consistent with what we know," said Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, a Democratic Congressional candidate in NC-11 who serves as the Executive Director of the Asheville-based Campaign for Southern Equality.

"I actually turned to my husband last night as I was reading an article about it and said to him, 'that's incredible.' This was genuinely bipartisan legislation," interim Executive Director of the LGBT Center of Raleigh Dolph Goldenburg said.

Forty-seven Republicans joined all Democrats in supporting the bill; all Republicans in North Carolina's House Delegation voted against it.

"On the one hand, it's shocking that we're having to have this conversation in 2022. But on the other hand, this is the reality that LGBTQ people and families live with every day. And certainly my family and I have fought hard for our rights under the law and will continue to do so," said Beach-Ferrara.

In 2012, North Carolina voters passed Amendment 1, which stated only marriage between a man and woman would be legally recognized by the state. However, two years later, a District Court ruled in General Synod of the United Church of Christ v. Cooper it was unconstitutional, effectively making same-sex marriage legal statewide. In 2015,the Supreme Court's decision in the Obergefell case stated same-sex marriage was a protected right. However, Amendment 1 has never been repealed.

"Here in North Carolina as in many states across the South, laws or amendments like Amendment 1 remain on the books. They haven't been formally repealed. So one thing we certainly advocate for is the formal repeal of that so that we don't have to have the threat of that hanging over our head," Beach-Ferrara said.

A recent Gallup poll found 71% of Americans support same-sex marriage, including a majority of Americans; this is up from just 50% a decade ago when Amendment 1 was passed.

"Ten years ago, the painful stories we heard were often about a young person coming out and being kicked out of the House. The stories we hear now are about a young person coming out and being met with a message of love from not just their parents and their siblings, but from their coaches and their teachers and their friends and their faith leaders," Beach-Ferrara said.

While some House Republicans who voted against the bill stated they did so because they found it unnecessary, Democrats pointed to the recent Dobbs decision, which overturned Roe v. Wade and sent the issue of abortion access back to the states.

"The Supreme Court doesn't have a case right now considering to overturn Obergefell. But in today's political environment as we saw with Roe, precedent doesn't mean what it meant even two years ago," said Dr. David McLennan, a professor of political science at Meredith College.

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, as part of a concurring opinion in the Dobbs case, noted Obergefell as a case that could be reconsidered by the same merits.

"Even when I saw the (Dobbs) draft opinion, that's exactly what I thought. If they're using this line of argument for Roe V. wade, all of the progress that we have made that has happened through the courts, is also potentially up for not just scrutiny, but to be struck down," Goldenburg said.

The focus now is whether there will be enough Republican support to overcome a filibuster in the Senate. Assuming all 50 Democrats support the measure, ten Republicans are needed to hit the 60-vote threshold. As of Wednesday afternoon, outgoing Ohio Senator Rob Portman has announced he will be a co-sponsor of the legislation, and Maine Senator Susan Collins has signaled her support.

CNN reported North Carolina Senator Thom Tillis told a reporter with their network he "probably will" support the measure; his office did not respond to a request for comment from ABC11. A representative for Senator Richard Burr told ABC11 he has no comment as the issue has not been brought up in the Senate at this time. There is no set time for when a vote could be taken up.

"The question is, will Mitch McConnell and the Republicans as the leader of the Senate decide to really whip votes against it? Or whip votes for it? He controls that caucus pretty carefully," McLennan explained.