The more Republicans talk about transparency and rights the more they’re about secrecy and tyranny. The latest example of this Star Chamber mentality comes from North Carolina, where the state legislature hid the existence of a bill banning same-sex marriage, disguising it as a bill about tenure limits in the house and senate. A stark difference between mundane and horrific.
After all, you can’t protest or oppose something that doesn’t exist, can you?
At 4:31 pm on Friday, a public notice posted by the Senate Judiciary 1 clerk claimed that North Carolina’s Senate Judiciary 1 committee would be meeting Monday at 1:30 pm on HB 61, “Speaker/Pro Tem Term Limits” – a bill to limit tenure for both House and Senate leaders.
The bill read in part as follows:
A BILL TO BE ENTITLED
AN ACT AMENDING THE NORTH CAROLINA CONSTITUTION TO LIMIT THE TERMS OF THE SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES AND THE PRESIDENT PRO TEMPORE OF THE SENATE TO TWO GENERAL ASSEMBLIES.
The pubic, in order to comment, would have to be present between 1 and 1:30 in the Legislative Office Building, Room 643 in order to sign up.
Eleven minutes later, at 4:42 pm, Susan Sitze, Senate staff attorney, sent the members of Senate Judiciary 1 a copy of the marriage-amendment bill as a “proposed committee substitute” (PCS). As a PCS, it is not made available to the public.
Forty minutes after that, at 5:25 pm, the Senate Calendar was posted on the website for the public. It still listed the topic of Monday’s meeting as “Speaker Pro Tem Term Limits.” Not a ban on same-sex marriage.
But as WRAL reported that night, the truth leaked out: the bill to be debated by the committee is not about term limits but a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. The new version can be seen here and reads as follows:
A BILL TO BE ENTITLED
AN ACT TO AMEND THE CONSTITUTION TO PROVIDE MARRIAGE BETWEEN ONE MAN AND ONE WOMAN IS THE ONLY DOMESTIC LEGAL UNION THAT SHALL BE VALID OR RECOGNIZED IN THIS STATE.
The General Assembly of North Carolina enacts:
SECTION 1. Article 14 of the North Carolina Constitution is amended by adding the following new section:
“Sec. 6. Marriage.
Marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this State. This section does not prohibit a private party from entering into contracts with another private party; nor does this section prohibit courts from adjudicating the rights of private parties pursuant to such contracts.”
SECTION 2. The amendment set out in Section 1 of this act shall be submitted to the qualified voters of the State at a statewide election to be held on November 6, 2012, which election shall be conducted under the laws then governing elections in the State. Ballots, voting systems, or both may be used in accordance with Chapter 163 of the General Statutes. The question to be used in the voting systems and ballots shall be:
“[ ] FOR [ ] AGAINST
Constitutional amendment to provide that marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this State.”
SECTION 3. If a majority of votes cast on the question are in favor of the amendment set out in Section 1 of this act, the State Board of Elections shall certify the amendment to the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State shall enroll the amendment so certified among the permanent records of that office. The amendment is effective upon certification.
SECTION 4. This act is effective when it becomes law.
Of course, Republicans say they weren’t doing anything underhanded or sneaky. The Senate Majority Leader, Phil Berger, said through his chief of staff that “Under Senate rules, we don’t have to notice meetings until midnight the day of the meeting, and at the same time send out a PCS.”
Chief of Staff Jim Blaine said not changing the name of the bill wasn’t required because, as he put it, “Well, that’s the name of the bill.”
“We are in no way, shape or form trying to hide this. If we wanted to sneak this through, we’d put it out Monday at noon. If you notice the members of the committee on Friday, it’s public domain.”
WRAL’s Laura Leslie reports on her somewhat bizarre exchange with Blaine:
But the state’s open meetings law requires that the public, not just meeting attendees, be informed about what their elected officials are voting on. How would they know you’re planning to debate this bill?
“You have it, don’t you?” Blaine asked. “I think they will be given every opportunity to weigh in.”
The only reason I have it, I explained, is because it was leaked to me by a third party – not because the public was informed about it.
So how would the public would know what they’re planning to vote on? If the purpose of the state’s open meetings law is to inform the public about elected officials are planning to do, why tell the public you’re going to be voting on something completely different?
“I think you’re down the wrong track on this. It will be in the public domain well in advance of the meeting,” Blaine said.
Apparently, honesty and transparency is the “wrong track” as well. We get it, GOP. Trust me, we get it.
And why pay attention to what the people of North Carolina want (they don’t want to change the constitution) or worry about equal rights since “we need to reach out to them to try to get them to change their lifestyle and back to the normal lifestyle which we can accept,” says the man who introduced the bill, Sen. James Forrester.
Ah ok…you can’t accept their lifestyle…sounds like the problem is yours, not theirs. The problem is that you need to accept and to tolerate, like the U.S. Constitution demands, not change your state constitution to satisfy your bigotry and intolerance. Naturally, Forrester, who is also a doctor, professes his love for gays. Love like that gays can do without.
At Saturday at 2:45 pm the Senate Judiciary 1 Clerk at last posted a correction:
Corrected: * Please note that the language regarding term limits has been replaced with language pertaining to the marriage amendment. A copy of the new language was sent out with the original notice and is also attached to this notice.*
But as WRAL points out, this is not true. Laura Leslie says she “received the original public notice Friday afternoon, and the “new language” was not attached to it.”
Of course, we are also well aware by now that the GOP feels what has already happened can be revised after the fact to meet requirements. It’s a simple matter to re-write history. Meanwhile, HB 61 will be placed on the November 1012 ballot if it is passed by three-fifths of both the state Senate and House. I hope folks in North Carolina are paying attention. They’re going to have to be with sneak-thieves like Senator Forrester hiding in the shadows of the state assembly.