EqualityNC has just issued a complete smackdown to the GOP lawmakers responsible for the massive, ignorant messaging out there about the proposed marriage amendment, which may come to the floor next week. I have posted its incredibly detailed release in total below.

Also, one challenge that came late today was from ENC’s interim director Alex Miller — an offer to debate Speaker Pro Tempore Dale Folwell  ”on this issue anytime, anyplace & in any setting & any host.” And later Thursday evening, at a Kernersville, NC town hall, Folwell apparently agreed to the debate. “Heard via G+:@DaleFolwell at Town Hall meeting in#Kernersville said he will “absolutely” debate@equalitync‘s Alex Miller.”

I can’t wait to see this debate.  Folwell has zero chance of making any coherent argument for institutionalizing bigotry into North Carolina’s constitution. All he has to offer will be variations on 1) the whole incest/bestiality slippery slope nonsense; 2) the thought of same-sex love is icky, and 3) barely-veiled political chest beating even though there’s nothing to be gained according to the latest polling.

The saddest part of  this disgusting attempt to prey on fear and ignorance is the use of attention-loving bigoted black pastors as tools to foment the bigotry, purportedly the socially conservative religious black community. As I blogged earlier, the pathetic display of  Pastor Johnny “Two Locks” Hunter banging padlocks together and Donald Q. Fozard, of  Durham’s Mount Zion Christian Church talking about desert-island procreation at a presser held in the General Assembly (sponsored by Folwell),  we see how that pretty much sums up the intellectual running-on-empty approach to misinformation. It’s an embarrassment.

Here is the ENC press release responding to the escalating misinformation by men who are clearly incompetent to govern if they cannot understand the simple concept of church-state separation.


Leading Up to Next Week’s Special Legislative Session on Amendments, N.C. Republican House Leadership Misrepresent Anti-Gay Amendment, Take Talking Points From Hate Groups, Ignore Business Harms, Mislead African-American Community; While Nonpartisan Polling Shows Broad Opposition to Amendment Among North Carolinians and Experts Reveal Appreciable Amendment Harms.

Raleigh, N.C. – In the two weeks preceding a special legislative session on constitutional amendments beginning September 12, N.C. Republican House leaders, House Majority Leader Rep. Paul Stam (@PaulSkipStam) and Speaker Pro Tempore Rep. Dale Folwell (@DaleFolwell) have continually avoided the negative impacts of a proposed constitutional amendment banning all same-sex relationship recognitions, by using biblical references, misrepresenting the legislation as being the same as current law, and taking talking points from certified hate groups.

In the process, the second and third ranking Republicans in the N.C. House have drawn considerable criticism from legal experts, state businesses, state and national media, local civil rights leaders, and fellow state legislators—all who say that the proposed anti-gay constitutional amendment would hurt families, harm business and tarnish the perception of the state as a welcoming place to live and work.

Taking Plays From Certified Hate Groups

North Carolina House Majority Leader Rep. Paul Stam (R) appeared September 1, on American Family Association radio with AFA’s President Tim Wildmon and the Family Research Council’s President, Tony Perkins. The Southern Poverty Law Center identifies both AFA and FRC as hate groups for their anti-gay rhetoric. Stam urged listeners to call their representatives and encourage them to vote for the anti-gay measure. In the process, he expressed optimism that voters would approve the amendment if it passed out of the legislature:

WILDMON: Shouldn’t this be a slam-dunk once it gets out there to the people of North Carolina?

STAM: Well, we believe the people will pass it by 60, 65, 70 percent. That has never been the issue. The issue has been the old guard, for a decade, just not wanting to have the vote.

In truth, a non-partisan Elon Poll shows that a majority of North Carolinians DO NOT support a constitutional amendment to prevent same-sex couples from marrying. The February 2011 survey found 56% of North Carolinians oppose or strongly oppose an amendment to the state constitution that would ban same-sex marriage, with only 38% in support. According to the poll, opposition to the anti-gay amendment increased 5% in the last two years. In fact, the same poll shows that support for legal relationship recognition of same-sex couples stands strong at 57 percent.

This opposition to a constitutional ban of same-sex marriage is supported by a new poll released on September 7, from Public Policy Polling, showing only 30 percent of North Carolina voters support a state constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. The poll of 520 voters found that 55 percent opposed such an amendment, making the 25-point difference among the largest ever seen in a poll on this issue.  Mirroring the February Elon University poll, 61% of African Americans in the PPP poll say they would vote against the amendment.  These voters would be joined by 78% of those under the age of 30 and majorities of every age group, including those over 65.

Rep. Stam’s hollow assurances to hate groups of unfettered support for this discriminatory legislation comes just two days after an August 30, pro-discrimination press conference during which Stam argued that the recognition of same-sex marriage is somehow part of a plot to undermine the broader institution of marriage. In doing so, the House Majority Leader took lines directly out of the FRC playbook by comparing same-sex marriage to “adult incest” and “polygamy.”

One reporter pointed Rep. Stam to the fact that these were the exact same historic rhetorical parallels used to bar interracial marriage decades earlier in the south.  When asked how the constitutional same-sex ban would differ from miscegenation laws, Stam answered: “People can’t change their race. They can’t choose their race. And there was no biological basis for it to start with, whereas…” “People can chose their sexual orientation?” a reporter asked. “I don’t, you know, some do, some don’t,” he responded.

In fact, all major mainstream medical and mental health professional organizations have concluded that sexual orientation is not a choice. According to the American Psychological Association, “[M]ost people experience little or no sense of choice about their sexual orientation.”

Former Republican National Committee (RNC) National Field Director, RNC Deputy Political Director and North Carolina Republican Party Executive Director Dan Gurley responded to this rhetoric from Republican lawmakers, saying “while some lawmakers have co-opted the state Republican Party for the purposes of pushing legislation that would create a group of second-class citizens, we want to make perfectly clear that this amendment is not a conservative act, but an extreme one: using big government pens to write discrimination into our state’s constitution and, in turn, diminishing the meaning of a fundamental document meant to protect rights, not take them away.”

How these lawmakers continue to misrepresent the truth about this amendment is below the fold.

Misrepresenting Anti-Gay Amendment Impact and Harms

At his August 30, press conference, Rep. Folwell confirmed that Senate Bill 106, the more restrictive of the two proposed bills, would be the version put up for a vote the week of September 12.  In light of this announcement, another frequent misrepresentation in recent weeks from Reps. Stam and Folwell has been that the proposed anti-LGBT constitutional amendment, specifically Senate Bill 106, is somehow the same as the 1996 state statute that currently limits out-of-state recognition of marriages beyond those between a man and a woman.

Among Rep. Dale Folwell’s direct arguments in support of the anti-gay amendment during a second, September 6, press conference was that, “Many Democrats (like Governor Perdue) voted for a proposed bill in 1996 to restate the statutory ban on same sex marriage.  How can they stand now in opposition to our amendment? What’s the difference?” Folwell reiterated this lack of understanding in a recent Raleigh News & Observer article in which he said, “At the end of the day, it’s already the law.”

Rep. Stam also misrepresented the impacts of the proposed anti-gay amendment in a press release issued on September 6, attacking House Minority Leader Rep. Joe Hackney for statements he made during the day’s anti-amendment press conference calling Stam’s allusions to “incest” and “polygamy” as “a form of hate speech.”

Stam shot back, saying “While there are major procedural differences between the “No Same Sex Marriage” statute of 1996 (SB 1487) and the proposed constitutional amendment, the policy is exactly the same:  North Carolina will not recognize same sex marriages – whether performed in-state or out of state.  On this point the ‘marriage amendment’ is identical with the law that Gov. Bev Perdue and Attorney General Roy Cooper voted for as Senators in 1996… Since Speaker Hackney voted for the same policy in 1996, should he apologize now to everyone for having engaged in a ‘form of hate speech’ himself?”

In reality, the existing N.C. state law voted on 15 years ago is “not identical” with the proposed anti-gay amendment. The current state law does not ban civil unions nor domestic partnerships; interfere with our domestic violence laws; invalidate end-of-life decisions and hospital visitation polices; nor strip thousands of state employees of their domestic partner benefits—all harms of the current Senate Bill 106, the most extreme version of a state marriage amendment.

Rep. Earline Parmon (D-Forsyth) took issue with the Republican House leadership for citing her prior support for a constitutional amendment defining marriage as valid only between a man and a woman, responding to the same press release from Rep. Stam arguing that Democrats shouldn’t say that marriage-amendment backers are engaged in “hate speech” when Democrats, including Parmon, have backed less restrictive measures in the past.

As Parmon told the Winston-Salem Journal on September 7, “she still believes that marriage is between a man and a woman, but said she opposes the bill because she believes Republicans are using it as a political tactic. ‘The whole thing is to get it on the ballot so they (the GOP) can use that to enrage people” instead of dealing with “the real issues of unemployment and health care and education,’ Parmon said. ‘I am a minister, so when you talk about hate, I don’t hate anybody,’ she said. ‘Among the people I represent are gays and lesbians, but that is an issue that is personal with them. I believe we should love all people.’”

UNC Law Professor Maxine Eichner, co-author of a report on the potential legal impacts of proposed same-sex marriage ban to the North Carolina Constitution, also weighed in on the debate, saying “the notion that somehow the 1996 N.C. state statute has the exact same legal effects as the proposed constitutional amendment is simply erroneous.”

Eichner added, “The language of the proposed amendment is sufficiently vague and its scope so unclear, that it could not only be used to upend completely the very minimal legal rights, obligations, and protections now available to unmarried couples, whether same-sex or opposite-sex; but the amendment would almost certainly spur litigation, discourage same-sex and opposite-sex unmarried couples from living and working in North Carolina, adversely affect the ability of state businesses to attract talented employees, and could encourage individuals seeking to undo their legal obligations to flock to North Carolina courts for relief. The 1996 law on its face could not, and does not, have the same extreme effect.”

In an effort to end this public misrepresentation of current law and the impact of the proposed anti-gay constitutional amendment, Eichner met with Rep. Folwell on September 7, to explain these very dangers, as well as the amendment’s startling impacts on private business and public employees.

Dismissing Business Harms

Prominent business leaders from across the state have joined legal experts like Maxine Eichner in arguing that the proposed anti-gay amendment is bad for North Carolina businesses. But these assertions have fallen on deaf ears among Republican House Leadership during their two-weeklong anti-gay offensive.

During his August 30, press conference, news media pressed Rep. Folwell to explain why Republicans were expending energy on an unnecessary constitutional amendment (North Carolina state law already limits marriage as being between a man and a woman), rather than focusing on creating jobs and bolstering the economy. Both Stam and Folwell claimed that nothing in the amendment would impact private businesses ability to offer domestic partner benefits, nor would it impact private industry.

In response, a variety of business leaders have spoken to the many real impacts of this discriminatory legislation on business, including businesses’ ability to provide domestic partner benefits in a post-amendment North Carolina.

One is Anthony J. Pugliese, Senior Vice President, Finance, Membership & Operations, American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), who, in a September 6, Democratic House Caucus press conference on amendment harms, stated: ”The proposed amendment is bad for business. It interferes with our ability to recruit talent and our right to provide competitive benefits to our employees.  It also signals to major employers like ours that our state is not welcoming to the diverse, creative workforce that we need to compete in the global economy. It’s also bad for future business development in the state as we seek top grow our tax base. It is very unlikely we would have ever relocated our global headquarters to the Triangle and hired 450 local employees in 2006 if this amendment had been the law.”

Bob Page, Founder & CEO, Replacements, Ltd. Greensboro, N.C., also responded to the pro-discrimination press conference, saying “In the face of the worst economy in 80 years and as our neighbors recover from a devastating hurricane, the General Assembly is considering a Constitutional amendment that may terminate the legal rights of thousands of same- and opposite-sex couples, creating hardships for employers and employees alike.  If other workplaces are anything like mine, please join us in saying enough is enough.  As employers, we take our responsibilities to our people seriously.  This is the kind of help from the government that we can least afford. If the legislature’s going to bear the expense of a special session, they should focus on job creation and matters that are important to all North Carolinians.”

In reality, legal experts and business owners agree, the anti-LGBT amendment would not only strip local governments of the authority to provide their public employees with domestic partner benefits in areas like the City of Asheville, the Town of Carrboro, the Town of Chapel Hill, the City of Durham, the County of Orange, the County of Durham, the City of Greensboro, and County of Mecklenburg, but also harms private businesses by potentially denying them control over what benefits they offer their employees and the caliber of employees they can recruit. In one of several anti-business scenarios created by the language of Senate Bill 106, defining “marriage” as the only “legal domestic union” that can be “valid or recognized in this state,” the amendment could tie the hands of state regulatory agencies like the North Carolina Department of Insurance, by preventing approval of any private contracts for domestic partner benefits for unmarried same- or opposite-sex couples. But, as UNC Law professor Victor Flatt put it,”the larger economic impact may be based on the perception of what the policy means about the state of North Carolina as a place to live and do business.”

Targeting the African-American Community

Civil Rights leaders from all across the state have expressed outrage in recent attempts by Reps. Stam and Folwell to court African-American support for the anti-gay constitutional amendment.

For Rep. Folwell’s September 6, press conference, which immediately followed an earlier anti-amendment media event featuring business leaders and Democratic legislative leadership, the conservative brought in four fiercely anti-gay African-American speakers, most of whom were pastors, in an effort to show broad African-American support for House Bill 777/Senate Bill 106, “the anti-gay marriage amendment.” The speakers included, Kevin Daniels of the Frederick Douglas Foundation of North Carolina, Dr. Patrick Wooden of Upper Room Church God and Christ, Pastor Donald Fozard of Mt. Zion Christian Church in Durham, N.C. and Dr. Johnny Hunter of Cliffdale Community Church.

These same pastors attended the latter portion of the earlier anti-amendment press conference hosted by House Minority Leader Hackney, during which one of the men went so far as to pose as a member of the press (fictional “WKRP radio”) in order to reassert the question of why those who supported the 1996 state law no longer “found it important” to support the anti-gay amendment. The man went on to interrupt Rep. Hackney’s response that “this is not the same bill,” and that “putting it in the constitution is an entirely different matter.”

Things then grew heated at the conclusion of the earlier press conference during an exchange between Rep. Marcus Brandon, who attended the earlier press event in opposition to the amendment, and Folwell’s press conference speakers, when Rep. Brandon pointed to recent polling from non-partisan Elon University showing that 61% of African-American North Carolinians oppose or strongly oppose an amendment that would ban same-sex marriage (with only 39% in support). The data prompted Pastor Fozard to get in Rep Brandon’s face and repeatedly call him a “liar.”

The tenor didn’t improve during the actual Folwell press conference as one by one, the anti-gay pastors spewed inflammatory rhetoric in defense of the amendment.

One Pastor, Dr. Johnny Hunter of Cliffdale Community Church, opened his statement by threatening, “Nobody can call God a liar without facing the fire,” and went on to justify the constitutional ban on same-sex marriage because same-sex couples could not consummate their marriage. He illustrated the point using two locks (representing two women), and two keys (representing two men):

“You see…two locks…(pulls them out of his pocket, bangs them together) cannot open each other. (Bangs them together again) They don’t work together (continues banging)…they weren’t designed to work together. In fact, even if you had two keys (pulls those out of his pocket)…two keys don’t work together. What it takes to consummate a marriage is a lock and a key. (Holds up a lock and a key).”

Following several similar statements from ultra-conservative pastors, (including Dr. Patrick Wooden, who gained notoriety forbooing anyone who disagreed with the Wake County School Board’s 2004 abstinence-only policy and telling the Raleigh News & Observer in the same year, “If we’re labeled as being fanatical Christians, we embrace it… [of homosexuality] They are not gay. We’ve got to use terms like ‘deviant’ and ‘abomination.’”), Rep. Folwell closed the press conference with Pastor Donald Fozard of Mt. Zion Christian Church in Durham, N.C. Fozard, who is best known for repeatedly shouting “faggot” from the pulpit, (Faggots across the nation, heading churches. Homos on the pianos. Faggots in the choir. What kind of spirit is leading that church?”), repeatedly called same-sex couples an “abomination” in his support for the anti-gay amendment, charging that “Every major empire that ever came to naught, was because homosexuality was pushed.”

Fozard also told the press conference audience that the amendment push “is not a political issue, This is a moral issue.”  While this  is a favorite argument from hate groups—that the anti-gay amendment is about “protecting tradition” and “preserving morality”—recent statements from legislative supporters of the amendment reveal it’s simply an effort to play politics with our state’s founding document. In a June 2011 appeal to the Republican House Caucus, Rep. Mark Hilton (R-Catawba) admitted it would be important to pass North Carolina’s anti-LGBT marriage amendment this year in order to help conservative groups “get their ground game working” to turn out more conservative voters in November 2012.  This admission prompted Republican political operative (and former Jesse Helms campaign director), Carter Wrenn, in his blog “Talking About Politics,” to admonish the action, saying  “[Rep.] Mark Hilton announced he wants to pass a Constitutional Amendment banning gay marriage. He went on to explain his reasons, which had nothing to do with morality.”

Folwell was forced to cut his press conference short following heated responses to press inquiries about the separation of church and state and the value of personal, moral arguments in the ongoing legislative debate.

In response to Rep. Folwell’s press conference, Rev. Dr. William Barber, president of the N.C. NAACP immediately issued a statement saying, in part

“The real insult to the civil rights movement is that folks trying to overturn the Voting Rights Act, re-segregate and rob our schools, and even block workers’ rights to organize, somehow think the sons and daughters of the Civil Rights Movement can’t see through this Trojan Horse.”

In reality, not only have hundreds of statewide faith leaders publicly opposed this discriminatory legislation, but African Americans are largely against the anti-gay marriage amendment, with 61% of African Americans opposed or strongly opposed to this constitutional ban to same-sex marriage (Elon University Poll, February 2011).

If passed, the Senate version of the amendment would head to the November 2012 ballot, extending the current divisive debate for another 14 months, impacting North Carolina’s various communities, business industries and perception on the national stage.

“The amendment claims from Reps. Stam and Folwell to this point have been disingenuous, dishonest and downright deceitful,” responded Alex Miller, interim executive director of Equality NC.

“As I told Rep. Folwell myself, I don’t want to have to raise my children in a state where that kind of profane and offensive rhetoric will be broadcast for 14 months straight, through mailers, TV ads and radio spots we can’t avoid. I don’t want my girls to have to hear people call their uncle a pervert, and a pedophile, and hear people who purport to speak in Jesus’ name telling us that God hates him. As a veteran of the Unites State Infantry, I don’t want my brothers and sisters in arms, many of whom are gay and will be serving legally, and openly, to have to hear those messages as they prepare to depart North Carolina bases to defend our freedoms abroad. If this amendment passes, these exact same messages will permeate our communities, our churches and our schools for more than a year, all in the name of striping from a minority of our citizens many of the few equal rights they currently enjoy.”

Equality NC is a statewide organization working to secure equal rights and justice for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender North Carolinians.

[EDITOR’s NOTE: Equality NC's interim executive director Alex Miller is available for interviews at (919) 619-3360; and NC's Chairman, former Republican National Committee (RNC) National Field Director, RNC Deputy Political Director and North Carolina Republican Party Executive Director Dan Gurley is available for interviews at (919) 747-1178 ordangurley@gmail.com]

CONTACTS:
Alex Miller, Interim Executive Director, Equality NC, (919) 349-0936alex@equalitync.org

Jen Jones, Communications Director, Equality NC, (919) 260-5906, jen@equalitync.org