Time for Tillis and Berger to speak on their marriage amendment

By all appearances, North Carolina lawmakers are headed toward an historic (and terrible) vote the week after next. Unless something changes, members of the General Assembly will take the essentially unprecedented action of amending the state constitution so that it formally and permanently denies a basic human right (the right to marry) to hundreds of thousands of citizens.

It is a sad and remarkable state of affairs.

But here’s something that’s perhaps even more remarkable: the two principal architects of this development — the men who are calling the special legislative session and who will oversee the passage of the proposed amendment; two of the three most powerful individuals in North Carolina government — have yet to specifically articulate the reasons they are taking this extraordinary action.

Today, just 11 days prior to the scheduled legislative session, neither House Speaker Thom Tillis nor Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger has explained why North Carolina needs to take this action. All they’ve done is defer to the radical right-wingers in their own party and offer vague statements about wanting to let the people be heard, blah, blah….

I’m sorry, boys, but that just doesn’t cut it. If the “Defense of Marriage Act” ever becomes law in this state, there will be two people chiefly responsible for it; two men who had it within their power to make the thing happen or stop it. Those two are Tillis and Berger.

Indeed, if the amendment becomes law it will deserve to be called the “Tillis-Berger Amendment.”  That such a situation could arise without either of those individuals ever clearly stating why our state needs such a radical and discriminatory amendment is almost as shocking and offensive as the amendment itself.



  1. Gordon Anderson

    September 1, 2011 at 12:01 pm

    Well said.

  2. Mike P.

    September 1, 2011 at 1:14 pm

    Tillis and Berger are simply letting a debate take place on a bill- something that past Democratic leadership did not allow, even though majorities of both chambers co-sponsored the bill in the past. The reason the past leadership did not allow this debate is that they knew it would pass easily if it came to the floor, and they decided instead to pander to well-heeled constituencies. If this amendment becomes part of the NC constitution, it will be thanks to Democrats -at least four of them will need to vote ‘yea’ for approval in the House- and to the people of NC, who obviously have to approve all constitutional amendments. Tillis and Berger must now be loathed for letting something happen that most legislators (and most North Carolinians) support.

  3. Rob Schofield

    September 1, 2011 at 1:25 pm

    Afraid not, Mike. That may be the way Tillis and Berger want to spin things, but that’s not how things work. You can’t be the people in charge of the state legislative process — the two men who literally set the agenda and decide what gets voted on — and then claim that you’re just a referee. By such “logic,” former Speaker Hackney and former Pro Tem Basnight would bear no responsibility for past actions of the G.A. when they were in charge and it passed innumerable important bills (including state budgets) with Republican support.

    Bottom line: Berger and Tillis can try and play the game, but there’s no escaping the hard fact that they will own this hateful amendmant if it becomes law,

  4. HunterC

    September 1, 2011 at 2:06 pm

    It’s factually wrong to say that this amendment has never been debated in the General Assembly.

    It was debated in the House Rules committee while Bill Owens was Chair (under Speaker Hackney).

    I was in the room when they talked about it and voted it out of committee. It was then referred to another committee under Speaker Hackney’s serial referral procedure he used for almost all bills that ran through the House under his speakership.

    Serial referrals within a chamber were a great idea that caught a lot of errors. Good governance folks on both sides of the aisle should bring that topic up again.

  5. david esmay

    September 1, 2011 at 3:55 pm

    I think Berger and Tillis should marry and move to Key West, and leave the people of this state alone.

  6. Mike P.

    September 1, 2011 at 7:31 pm

    Rob- I understand why you are attacking Tillis and Berger; you would not want to denounce the people of NC (and especially black voters) as ‘hateful’ and ‘reactionary’ if they approve this amendment. The bottom line is that the people of this state would ‘own’ the amendment as much as anybody. Tillis’ and Berger’s support is neccesary but not sufficient for this amendment to become part of the NC Constitution: it also requires the support of some Democrats in the legislature and the support of a majority of NC voters. It is very common for speakers to let a bill that has broad support come to the floor, unless the speaker is personally opposed to said bill. You can hardly blame Republicans for doing what is in their platform, as much as you may disagree with the wisdom of the platform.

    HunterC- you’re right, it was voted out of committee, and the Speaker killed it by moving it to another committee that never meets. If he had just let the debate happen, instead of trying to control everything, this bill would have already passed and we would not have to deal with it now. Hackney brought this on himself: he should have known he was not going to rule forever.

    David Esmay- of course, the people of Key West -like those in all of Florida- were actually allowed to vote on a marriage amendment. Why not North Carolinians?

  7. HunterC

    September 1, 2011 at 9:16 pm

    MikeP.– You are factually wrong again.

    The amendment was heard and voted on in House Rules.

    It was then referred to Judiciary I.

    Judiciary I most certainly met as a committee.

    The bill didn’t have the votes to pass that committee.

    These are pretty basic facts that are available online.

  8. Mike P.

    September 2, 2011 at 1:02 pm

    HunterC- You are correct about the House bill; however, I was referring to the Senate bill, which was moved to the Ways and Means committee, which had not met for a decade.

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