A bill filed on Tuesday, April 11, 2017, in North Carolina’s House of Representatives aims to make North Carolina the first state to ignore the United States Supreme Court and make gay marriage illegal. On top of that, under House Bill 780, North Carolina would not recognize gay marriages performed in other states.
The Bill’s Sponsors and Their Rationale
The primary sponsor of the bill is Representative Larry Pittman, a Republican from Cabarrus, who is also a Christian minister. When asked for clarification or comment, Pittman refused to offer any comment.
Representative Michael Speciale, a republican from Craven, North Carolina, denied that the bill was aimed at outlawing gay marriage, despite the bill’s short title of, “Uphold Historical Marriage Act.” When pressed, Speciale said that since the constitutional amendment remains, despite the Supreme Court decision, state lawmakers should “do something” to correct that.
Speciale and Pittman are using the Tenth Amendment in the Bill of Rights as their rationale. The Tenth Amendment states the following.
“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people”
The two representatives believe that the federal government, and by proxy, the Supreme Court, cannot create a law on the legality of gay marriage. That is because there is nothing in the Constitution that gives the federal government the authority to rule on marriage.
The American Civil Liberties Union chapter in North Carolina, who is closely monitoring the bill, has called the rationale nothing more than a “half-baked legal theory.” They note that because of the ruling, that same-sex marriage is legal in both North Carolina and every other state in the United States.
The director, Sarah Gillooly, issued a statement that said in part, “This bill is absurd, unconstitutional and further proof that some North Carolina legislators remain committed to discriminating against LGBT people and their families. North Carolina lawmakers cannot defy the U.S. Supreme Court based on their extreme personal views.”
North Carolina’s Other Anti-LGBTQ+ Legislation
Perhaps the most famous anti-LGBT legislation in North Carolina is the “bathroom bill,” HB2. HB2 was passed in North Carolina in March of 2016, and has been vilified as the some of the most repressive legislation in the United States.
Under the original bill, transgender people were unable to use the bathrooms of their gender identity. Instead, they were forced to use bathrooms corresponding to the gender they were assigned at birth and have listed on their birth certificate. In North Carolina, it is possible to have the gender changed on birth certificates, but that requires sex reassignment surgery.
Fortunately, the portion of the bill regarding bathroom use was repealed on March 30, 2017, but other restrictive measures remain in place. The anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ+ people were still eliminated, as was the ability for individual towns and municipalities to set their own minimum wage.
The repeal came mainly because of a planned boycott by the NCAA which said that because of HB2, North Carolina would not be eligible to host any championship games through the year 2022. The announcement sent shockwaves through the North Carolina legislature, because the NCAA contributes significant funds to the state, especially UNC and NC State, two of the more prominent schools in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC).
After the partial repeal went through, the ACC reinstated the championship games in the state. The initial boycott made Republican lawmakers angry, however, prompting another bill, House Bill 728, titled, “UNC Institutions/Conference Boycotts.”
In short, the bill states that if the NCAA boycotts North Carolina again in the future, the campuses belonging to the state college system would not be able to grant media rights to that conference. Additionally, once media rights expired, the state schools would withdraw from the ACC. Essentially, in the NCAA boycotts North Carolina again, perhaps because of an even more discriminatory bill, UNC and NC State would withdraw from the conference.
Representative Graig Meyer, a democrat, said that this bill was payback to the ACC from people in the legislature who supported HB2 in its entirety.
While it is unclear how far either of these bills will get in the North Carolina legislature, it is worth noting that the Republicans have a supermajority in both the North Carolina Senate and House of Representatives. This means that even if democratic Governor Roy Cooper vetoes the bills, they could be passed anyway.
[Featured Image by Justin Starr Photography/Shutterstock]