by Bob Geary
The Senate vote was 30-16, with 30 needed for passage. A second and final vote was taken immediately. The Governor can't veto a constitutional amendment, but the voters can — SB 514 sets the referendum for the first primary election of 2012, which is scheduled for May.
Click here for the vote: 30 Republicans out of 31 voted yes (Hartsell, an opponent, was absent). Zero Democrats voted yes.
There's a chance the primary could be postponed because of redistricting.
But whenever it's held, expect a no-holds-barred attack on gays by amendment supporters. This is not going to be a proud time for North Carolinians.
On the other hand, if North Carolina turns this thing down, we'll be the first state to do so — after 30 others passed it. Our image as a tolerant, even progressive place in on the line.
According to the N&O (I watched the vote online and couldn't see the board), all 30 yes votes were Republicans.
Going into the day, there was some hope that with one Republican (Fletcher Harsell of Cabarrus County) out and claiming illness — he didn't support the amendment, according to its opponents — and at least two other Republicans on the fence, the thing wouldn't pass. The Republican majority in the Senate is 31-19.
One of the fence-sitters was said to be our own Sen. Richard Stevens, R-Wake. I got this message last night from Steve Noble at Called2Action, a Christian-right advocacy group:
Senator Richard Stevens, District 17 (southern Wake County - Apex, Holly Springs, Garner, Fuquay-Varina) is having a hard time supporting the passage of the Marriage Protection Amendment.
If he doesn't't vote YES - he is voting NO to YOUR right to vote on this critical issue!
Please call Senator Steven's office in the morning at (919)733-5653 and urge him to vote YES on the Marriage Protection Amendment!
I just called Stevens' office myself. No one answered; left a message on the VM.
Paraphrasing the quote from a former UNC law school dean, Henry Brandis — circa the civil rights era — that Sen. Bob Atwater, D-Chatham, offered near the end of the debate::
"The hardest task isn't hearing that others whose opinions you respect disagree with you. It's living with the knowledge that when a difficult decision needed to be made, you lacked the fortitude to do what you knew in your heart was right.
"Long personal experience convinces me that it's far more likely that a man will fail his conscience than that his conscience will fail him."
And this just in from Steve Noble at C2A:
Praise God for this incredible victory! After 8 long years of battle the Marriage Protection Amendment will finally be coming out to the people of North Carolina for a vote next May.
Thank you for your prayers and calls, especially to Senator Stevens who voted YES! There are so many people who have been in this battle for years and we thank God for all of them...but the Glory belongs to Him and Him alone!
The fight will only intendify between now and next May so make sure YOU are registered to vote and ALL of your friends are as well. This will not be a "slam dunk" so we all need to be ready to do our part to make sure this passes next May.