North Carolina House Speaker makes a surprising admission, leading to more Republican opposition to Amendment One
March 29, 2012
By Jacob Combs
Earlier this week, Scottie wrote about an article published by John Hood, president and chairman of John Locke Foundation, a major conservative think tank in North Carolina, in which Hood came out in oppostition to the discriminatory Amendment One, writing, “I think amending North Carolina’s constitution to forbid gay and lesbian couples from receiving any future legal recognition, including civil unions, is unwise and unfair.” As Scottie wrote in his post, Hood is one of many leading Republican voices who have come out against the ballot measure, a group that includes prominent Charlotte Republicans Sally and Russell Robinson, and Renee Ellmers, one of the state’s representatives in the U.S. House. Even more importantly, the group of prominent Republicans opposing Amendment One seems to be growing after an unusual comment made by a North Carolina lawmaker earlier this week.
Thom Tillis, the Speaker of the North Carolina House and a supporter of Amendment One, spoke to a student group at North Carolina State Monday and predicted that the amendment would pass with about 54 percent support. But Tillis didn’t stop there, instead going on to make another prediction: that Amendment One would be repealed within 20 years due to the demographic reality that younger voters are more supportive of marriage equality and will slower replace older voters who oppose it.
Not surprisingly, Tillis’s comments set off a bit of a firestorm. Chris Fitzsimon, of the liberal blog N.C. Policy Watch, wrote, “Apparently the speaker believes it is OK to discriminate against people for the next 20 years or so until the people inevitably rise up to stop it.” Fitzsimon does an excellent job of pointing out Tillis’s hypocrisy on the issue: for instance, he voted to send the amendment to the ballot even though house speakers rarely vote on proposed bills, yet said in a TV interview Monday that he is hesitant to support the amendment now because he believes that the Republican Party stands for limited government intrusion into people’s lives. A Tillis spokesperson, however, told N.C. Policy Watch that the speaker still supports the amendment. If you think this position makes no sense, it’s because it doesn’t.
Tillis’s comment has only served to bring out even more prominent Republicans to voice their opposition to Amendment One. Bob Orr, a former state Supreme Court justice and former executive director of the conservative North Carolina Institute for Constitutional Law, told the Charlotte Observer yesterday, “Any provision that has to be put into the ‘miscellaneous’ section of the constitution immediately raises questions about whether it should be in the state constitution. It’s probably not a provision that ought to be in.” Orr predicted that if the amendment passes, its fate will likely be decided in federal court.
In addition, Richard Vinroot, a one-time Republican gubernatorial candidate in North Carolina and mayor of Charlotte, also announced his opposition to Amendment One yesterday. Speaking to the Observer, Vinroot said, “My reaction, was, ‘My gosh, the legislature wants us to put something in the constitution that the leader of our party – the speaker of the House – doesn’t think will stand the test of time for more than a decade. I can’t imagine amending the constitution for something he believes is that tenuous.”
North Carolina remains a tough battle for marriage advocates, with one poll from last week showing 58 percent support for the amendment, with 36 percent of voters opposing it. Nevertheless, this is the first time that a state-wide marriage amendment has gained such vocal opposition from politicians on both sides of the aisle, a fact that only serves to support just how flawed and discriminatory Amendment One is. There is still time for more voter education before May 8, and advocates in North Carolina have an impressive and ever-growing slate of conservative voices to cite as they attempt to convince voters to defeat the constitutional amendment.