“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,” the statement said.
The Uphold Historical Marriage Act, or N.C. House Bill 780, would have invalidated marriages between people of the same sex that did not take place in the state.
Some Republican House legislators, including Rep. Chuck McGrady, R-Henderson, criticized the bill and the national news coverage it received. In a tweet Wednesday, McGrady said what he called “stupid” bills are often filed without the support of most legislators — mentioning a 2011 bill calling for North Carolina to issue its own legal currency backed by silver and gold.
“Any legislator can file a bill, even a stupid one,” the tweet said. “Remember what happened w/ the bill a few years ago (to) create our own currency.”
Ben Graumann, spokesperson for Equality NC, said the organization sees the bill as the next in a long line of attacks against LGBTQ people in North Carolina.
“We just barely repealed HB2 and replaced it with an almost as discriminatory law, and now a bill like this is filed,” Graumann said. “I think it shows very clearly where some of the lawmakers in Raleigh stand right now.”
Shannon Minter, legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, said he thought the bill was a political stunt to try to mobilize the bill’s sponsors’ base and to create more polarization.
“There are unfortunately some state legislators who think it is in their interest to try to use any issue they can to divide people more,” he said.
Shannon Gilreath, a law professor at Wake Forest University, said he was not surprised by the introduction of the bill to the legislature.
“There are a handful of legislators who really have no concept of what governing or the Constitution means, and they are constantly introducing these kinds of ridiculous religion-based laws, which generally don’t even get a hearing because the leadership of the Senate understands that they have no chance of being possibly constitutional,” he said.
Gilreath said he didn’t believe the legislators introduced the bill with the intent of passing it.
“I think it’s a sort of publicity stunt that these people who really want to appeal to the religious zealots who elected them have done,” Gilreath said. “I don’t think it’s anything more than that.”
The bill is a states’ rights argument drawing on the idea that the state can ignore federal law, Gilreath said.
“They can’t do it,” he said. “Federal law is supreme, and that’s sort of the end of the story. It doesn’t matter on what basis they want to create state legislation that trumps federal law whether it’s religious or otherwise. It’s just not possible.”
Sarah Gillooly, policy director for the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina, said in a statement that North Carolina lawmakers cannot defy the U.S. Supreme Court based on their extreme personal views.
“Marriage equality is the law of the land in North Carolina and the entire nation, no matter what half-baked legal theories anti-LGBT lawmakers try to put forward,” the statement said. “This bill is absurd, unconstitutional and further proof that some North Carolina legislators remain committed to discriminating against LGBT people and their families.”
Although this particular bill in North Carolina has been killed, Minter said other states like Texas and Arkansas have introduced similar legislation discriminating against same-sex couples.
“This particular effort in North Carolina is dead now, but it’s not dead everywhere,” he said.