The new bill, also called House Bill 780, was filed Tuesday, nearly two years after the Supreme Court upheld a nationwide right to same-sex marriage. Sponsored by four Republican members of the state’s House of Representatives, the one-page bill takes direct aim at the Supreme Court’s ruling and calls on lawmakers to declare it “null and void in the State of North Carolina.”
This legislation refers to a line in the North Carolina state constitution saying that only a marriage between a man and a woman “shall be valid or recognized” in the state, which was added through an amendment approved by voters in 2012.
Pointing at times to that amendment, the U.S. Constitution and the Bible, the sponsors of the new legislation argue that “the United States Supreme Court overstepped its constitutional bounds” with its historic 2015 ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, writing for the majority in that case, concluded that “the right to marry is a fundamental right inherent in the liberty of the person.”
The proposed bill in North Carolina says that “marriages between persons of the same gender” are invalid, even those performed outside the state. Kennedy wrote in his 2015 opinion that the justices concluded “there is no lawful basis for a State to refuse to recognize a lawful same-sex marriage performed in another State on the ground of its same-sex character.”
While the Supreme Court’s ruling in 2015 was largely followed by county and state officials, even by those who opposed same-sex marriage, there were pockets of high-profile defiance. Roy S. Moore, the chief justice of Alabama’s Supreme Court, was suspended from the bench after he told probate judges in the state not to give same-sex couples marriage licenses. In Kentucky, a county clerk was jailed after refusing to comply with court orders that she begin issuing such marriage licenses.
But in North Carolina this week, the top Republican in the state’s House of Representatives said the new bill there would go nowhere because of the very Supreme Court ruling it sought to declare null and void.
“There are strong constitutional concerns with this legislation given that the U.S. Supreme Court has firmly ruled on the issue, therefore House Bill 780 will be referred to the House Rules Committee and will not be heard,” Moore, the House speaker, said in a statement.
The bill arrived at a sensitive moment for North Carolina, which has for much of the past year been a magnet for criticism and economic boycotts because of another bill.
North Carolina’s so-called bathroom bill, signed last year, restricted the public bathrooms transgender people could use and reversed local ordinances expanding protections for LGBT people. This legislation became a firestorm, costing the state potentially billions of dollars, prompting companies such as PayPal and Deutsche Bank to abandon expansion plans, and leading the NCAA and NBA to relocate high-profile games.
North Carolina’s former governor, who signed the bill and was ousted from office following an election dominated by it, agreed with the LGBT rights groups who said the bill was not really repealed. But the changes in North Carolina were enough for the NCAA and NBA, as both organizations said they would consider the state for events in the future because of the new law.
Gov. Roy Cooper (D) criticized the new marriage ban proposal this week, posting on Twitter that the bill was wrong and saying, “We need more LGBT protections, not fewer.” The American Civil Liberties Union also weighed in with a message aimed at the NCAA and its recent decision to allow championship games to resume in the state:
None of the lawmakers listed as sponsors of the bill responded immediately to requests for comment Wednesday about Moore’s decision.