Under the Dome

GOP pushes same-sex marriage amendment

STAFF WRITERSAugust 31, 2011 

Republican leaders in the state House of Representatives held a news conference Tuesday to push for passage of legislation that will put before voters a state constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. The issue is one of several constitutional amendments the legislature will take up when it returns Sept. 12.

House Speaker Pro Tem Dale Folwell, a Republican from Winston-Salem, said that there has long been support in the General Assembly for such an amendment and that the time has come to let people decide.

"It's time we settled this issue," Folwell said at the news conference in the Legislative Building. "People in favor of this will live or die by how the people of North Carolina feel about it. ... Power needs to be pushed away from this building and back to the people."

North Carolina law defines marriage as between a man and a woman. Backers of amending the constitution say doing so would help protect the law from being changed and from court rulings. House Majority Leader Paul "Skip" Stam, an Apex Republican, said Gov. Bev Perdue as a legislator supported North Carolina's law. But, he said, she has been calling Democratic legislators asking them to vote against the proposed amendment.

Stam and Folwell said the amendment wouldn't affect whether private companies choose to recognize same-sex unions. Stam said the amendment "protects the children of the next generation."

"In countries around the world where they have legitimized same-sex marriage, marriage itself is de-legitimized," Stam said. "About a fourth of the world allows polygamy. Polygamy would be next."

In response to a question, Stam said the issue is different from laws that once banned interracial marriage. "Miscegenation laws never had a basis in morality," he said. "... People can't change their race. They can't choose their race. There was no biological basis to begin with. There's a biological difference that everyone recognizes, whereas for race there is not."

N.C. Democratic Party Chairman David Parker weighed in with this response:

"The reality is that this amendment will not put one person back to work; it will not help one small business keep its doors open, and it will not assist one single citizen now trying to recover from the devastation inflicted by Hurricane Irene. The Republicans in the General Assembly have made it clear that their intention is to turn back the clock on our economy by pushing divisive social issues - talk about misplaced priorities. This amendment will only stifle job creation and hinder our economic recovery."

Pearson changes jobs

Perdue's top communications official is leaving to join another state agency.

Chrissy Pearson will become senior adviser to Reuben Young, who is secretary of the newly created N.C. Department of Public Safety. She starts her new job Sept. 6 and will keep the same annual salary of $115,200.

Pearson has been the public face of Perdue's administration since she became communications director in 2009, presenting Perdue's message on television and elsewhere. She took the job when David Kochman left to join Blue Cross and Blue Shield.

During the recent session of the General Assembly, Pearson often sparred with Republican lawmakers over budget cuts and other contentious issues.

Until she got a last-minute reprieve, Pearson's job was one of several specific positions in the Perdue administration that the General Assembly's budget would have eliminated. But the legislature tweaked the final version, allowing Perdue to make general cuts instead.

The final budget called on Perdue to reduce her office's annual budget by 23 percent, to $4.7 million from $6.1 million.

The new Department of Public Safety is the largest agency in state government. It was created to cut costs by merging the Departments of Correction, Crime Control and Public Safety, and Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

Hagan turns to economy

U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan spent the past two days touring areas damaged by Hurricane Irene, but today she takes a break to meet with constituents suffering from the country's economic storm.

First up, she'll be with Rep. Walter Jones, R-Farmville, to talk with small business owners about the problems they face getting bank loans. That meeting will be at Select Bank & Trust in Greenville. The bank received $7.6 million this year from the Small Business Lending Fund. Hagan co-sponsored the $30 billion SBLF, which was included in the Small Business Jobs Act of 2010.

The idea behind the fund is to encourage small business lending by providing capital to community banks at favorable rates.

After that, Hagan heads to Tarboro, where she'll host "Conversations with Kay" from 11 a.m. to noon at the E.L. Roberson Senior Recreation Center, 305 W. Baker St. Her constituent services staff will be on site to help people who are having trouble with federal agencies, such as the VA, IRS or Social Security Administration.

Hagan plans to hold additional "Conversations with Kay" across the state. When she's in Washington, she holds "Carolina Coffees" with visitors from North Carolina, and Dome has been told she serves Krispy Kreme doughnuts.

craig.jarvis@newsobserver.com or 919-829-4576

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