Commentary

Today’s marriage discrimination vote: Four cowardly minutes

House Speaker Tim Moore

House Speaker Tim Moore

Today’s vote in the North Carolina House of Representatives to override Gov. Pat McCrory’s veto of Senate Bill 2 — lawmakers’ latest effort to preserve some precious shreds of hate and discrimination in state marriage law — was absurd and offensive for a number of reasons.

There was the substance of the new law that will surely cost the state boatloads of money to defend against constitutional challenges — challenges that will almost certainly prevail.

There was the hypocrisy of the bill sponsors and defenders — all of whom somehow developed a passion for “religious freedom” of magistrates despite having voted countless times themselves without blinking an eye to impose duties on other public officials that could quite conceivably violate those other officials’  “religious beliefs.”

If there was a most outrageous and offensive aspect of today’s developments, however, it was not the substance of the legislation but the ridiculous “process” that House leaders employed to do their dirty deed.

Two-hundred and forty seconds. That’s how long it took for House leaders to run their little orchestrated kangaroo session. You can see the entire charade by clicking here and watching between the 5:30 and 9:30 marks on the video.

You see, House leaders couldn’t be bothered to allow the issue — a hugely divisive and important matter that desperately needed more illumination — to be discussed thoroughly on the floor of the people’s house (the Governor of the state had acted upon it for heaven’s sake!).

Rather than allowing members to discuss it (and maybe even allow a few more of the 10 members who were absent to show up for session or, God forbid, for some people to listen to the debate and think), they brought the bill up without warning immediately at the start of what had been expected to be a quiet session and then “called the question” — thus shutting off debate.

All that was provided was three minutes to House Minority Leader Larry Hall  to respond without warning. Hall, who was not well-prepared, did his best on the spur of the moment, but it was far from an adequate discussion. He didn’t even use his full time. After that, the bill was passed in seconds.

Republicans came to power in Raleigh a few years ago on a platform of transparency and openness. They said they would “clean up” legislative processes and, indeed, government itself. They promised that the people, whether they agreed with the outcomes or not, would at least be able to have faith that their legislature was being run in a fair and clean way by trustworthy people.

There have been many moments over the past four years in which a person could reasonably question the veracity of those promises, but today’s embarrassing and cowardly four minutes showed clearly, definitively and once and for all that they were ultimately nothing but a politically expedient lie.

P.S. – Special kudos to House Republican John Blust who, though a supporter of the bill, refused to vote for the spineless motion to call the question — something he has consistently done throughout his career in Raleigh.

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