Folwell: Ensure Reps vote right on defense of marriage amendment | Eastern North Carolina Now | Next month the N.C. General Assembly will reconvene to consider putting several constitutional amendments before the voters of this great state.

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   Publisher's Note: This news, information and opinion piece by N.C. House President ProTempore, Representative Dale R. Folwell, was sent to me by our District 6 Representative Bill Cook.

    Next month the N.C. General Assembly will reconvene to consider putting several constitutional amendments before the voters of this great state. One amendment will give the people of North Carolina the opportunity to vote on defining marriage.

    Gov. Bev Perdue answered the question in 1996. She voted at least twice in favor of a bill entitled "No Same Sex Marriage." Her first vote was part of the unanimous approval in a Senate Judiciary Committee chaired by current Attorney General Roy Cooper. Former Speaker of the House Joe Hackney also voted for the bill to become law, along with former Speaker Pro Tempore William Wainwright and former Rules Chairman Bill Owens.

    Unfortunately, the "No Same Sex Marriage" law of 1996 did not provide a long-term resolution for the definition of marriage in North Carolina, because laws are subject to judicial interpretation. Since the passage of North Carolina's marriage law, activist judges across the country redefined other states' laws on marriage to include meanings never intended by those states' legislatures. In order to provide a stronger definition of marriage in North Carolina, Democratic and Republican legislators in 2003 started sponsoring and campaigning on a constitutional amendment. It's time for the people of North Carolina to finally vote on the amendment.

    Sadly, Gov. Perdue is lobbying members of her own party to prevent the people of North Carolina from casting a vote she herself has made. Instead, Gov. Perdue should encourage members of her party to vote according to their conscience and the people they represent.

    Elected officials have lost the public's trust. Voters are fed up with business as usual in politics. Pushing the decision and power to constitutionally define marriage out of Raleigh and into the voters' hands will help restore confidence in our political system and our society.

    The 120 members of the N.C. House of Representatives and 50 members of the N.C. Senate have two choices. They can either trust the state's 6 million voters to define marriage, or they can abdicate the decision to one activist judge. It will be a vote over who our elected officials think are more important, themselves or the voters of North Carolina.

    For some, defining marriage has become a deeply emotional issue, and the fairest way to mediate such a controversial public policy issue is to trust the people and let them have the freedom to decide.

    The National Conference of State Legislatures says 30 states have amended their constitutions with a definition of marriage. In other words, 30 state legislatures have trusted their voters to make the decision the people of North Carolina need to make. North Carolina is the only southern state without a constitutional definition of marriage.

    The question must also be posed to the people when we know the largest number of voters will be at the ballot box. The presidential general election in 2012 is the right time for the vote. It is the election when we will have the greatest number of voters. Each person casting a ballot in that election will give North Carolina the broadest consensus on whether this state should join the 30 others with constitutional definitions of marriage.

    North Carolina is not alone in debating whether to amend its constitution. Legislators in Minnesota have already approved putting this question before that state's voters in 2012. Indiana and Pennsylvania are also considering putting the question on their ballots.

    The laws, regulations and procedures of the state enacted without direct voter approval would not fit in the back of dump truck, while the North Carolina Constitution approved and amended by the people of North Carolina can fit in a shirt pocket. The vote in the General Assembly is not about how people choose to live their lives. It's about the relationship politicians want and should have with the people they serve.

    Marriage is the foundation of our society. It is the most personal relationship and provides the support structure for life and death decisions, family relationships, tax policy, and a stable and growing economy. Because of its importance in everyone's life, the people of North Carolina should be trusted to decide its definition in our state's constitution.

    Join me in ensuring the men and women who represent you in government make the right decision in trusting you to define marriage.
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