Just in from QNotes's Matt Comer:
RALEIGH, N.C. — Members of the North Carolina Senate barely passed a motion to place an anti-LGBT constitutional amendment on the ballot in May 2012. The body began debate shortly after noon and ended at 1:22 p.m. The final vote tally, 30-16, barely met the three-fifths majority needed for the measure to pass. The measure gained prior approval in the state’s House on Monday.
Marc Solomon, national campaign director at Freedom to Marry, decried the amendment in a statement, saying, "This nasty attack amendment is a tremendous blow to loving, committed same-sex couples across North Carolina who want to make a lifetime commitment to the person they love and to protect their families. To try to preempt the conversations taking place across North Carolina about same-sex couples and why marriage matters by cementing discrimination into the constitution is unfair and wrong."
Also, regarding the vote's timing, he said, "[P]olitically scheming to put such a cruel and discriminatory measure on a low-turnout Republican presidential primary ballot is a sham designed to circumvent the majority of North Carolina voters, who polls say, oppose this amendment and the injury it will inflict not just on families, but the state."
The Human Rights Campaign noted concern about the language of the amendment in its statement issued after the Senate vote:
The bill, as passed, moves the ballot date for the amendment from November 2012 to May 2012. It also retains problematic language defining opposite-sex marriage as the state’s “only domestic legal union,” but adds, ”This section does not prohibit a private party from entering into contracts with another private party; nor does this section prohibit courts from adjudicating the rights of private parties pursuant to such contracts.” This unclear language may have the effect of prohibiting the state from providing civil unions or domestic partnerships to any couples. A poll conducted by Elon in 2011 shows 57 percent of North Carolinians support marriage, civil unions, or domestic partnerships in North Carolina. Only 35 percent oppose any legal recognition for gay and lesbian couples.
UPDATE @ 6P: The Family Research Council -- which is listed by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group -- issued a statement on behalf of its president, Tony Perkins. In the statement, he said:
"We are pleased that the North Carolina legislature listened to voters who clearly want to make history by becoming the 30th state to pass a marriage protection amendment. We have seen every state where the people have voted choose to preserve marriage, because the American people have a deep appreciation for the unique and irreplaceable benefits that marriage between a man and a woman gives to children and society.
"Marriage as the union between a man and woman fosters strong families and is the bedrock of civilization. Indeed, married couples rely less on government programs, and contribute to society rather than depending on the welfare state.
"The North Carolina legislature is investing in its future by allowing its citizens to vote on protecting and defending marriage. The well-being of children, parental rights and religious liberty are all at stake in this referendum.
"FRC Action has been very involved in the marriage debate in North Carolina so far, supporting the efforts of pro-family groups in the state by running radio ads throughout the state advocating for the defense of marriage. We will continue that work, as we are confident that the people of North Carolina, like those in every state to have addressed the issue at the ballot box, will vote to protect marriage as the union of a man and a woman now and for years to come."
UPDATE @ 8:45P: In response to an inquiry from Metro Weekly about President Barack Obama's position on the amendment, White House spokesman Shin Inouye did not answer directly, responding with a comment similar to those issued in the case of referenda in Maine and Washington in 2009 and the upcoming marriage amendment vote in Minnesota. Inouye wrote:
“The President has long believed that gay and lesbian couples deserve the same rights and legal protections as straight couples. That's why he has called for repeal of the so-called "Defense of Marriage Act" and determined that his Administration would no longer defend the constitutionality of DOMA in the courts. He has also said that the states should determine for themselves how best to uphold the rights of their own citizens.
“While the President does not weigh in on every single action taken by legislative bodies in our country, the record is clear that the President has long opposed divisive and discriminatory efforts to deny rights and benefits to same sex couples. The President believes strongly in stopping laws designed to take rights away.”