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Controversy plagues North Carolina marriage amendment supporters

Controversial statements and tactics by North Carolina Republicans have brought heightened attention to a proposed constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in the state. Amendment opponents have accused Republicans of using procedural tactics to diminish debate on the issue, and statements by a lawmaker about “anatomy” and calls for same-sex couples to “change their lifestyle” have both added to the tense debate.

The bill is scheduled for debate Monday afternoon in a state Senate committee. (Update, 12:15 p.m. EST: The Senate committee has postponed taking up the marriage amendment, but a House committee will hear it today.)

“If this bill does not pass then homosexuality will be taught into public school as the norm,” said Sen. James Forrester, a Republican representing Gaston County.

“Do you want that? No. The homosexuals want to have their lifestyle considered normal.”

Forrester made his remarks at a town hall meeting on the issue.

“At least 20 years is taken off a homosexual’s life, if they practice homosexuality, due to the increased death rate from AIDS, and hepatitis, and all of the other related factors to that. That doesn’t seem to discourage them from practicing this unhealthy lifestyle,” he continued.

“I’m trying to talk with them. And I’ve got a few homosexual patients, and I treat them just the same as anybody else. I love them. Perhaps even more, because I know they’re going to die at least 20 years earlier.”

(That statement is unsupported by most credible medical research on LGBT health.)

“We need to reach out to them and get them to change their lifestyle back to the one we accept,” he said.

At a similar town hall in Forsyth County, the discussion got heated.

Rep. Dale Folwell, a Republican, accused supporters of LGBT rights of attacking people. “When people tried to stand up and say they were in favor of (the amendment) they were attacked,” he said.

Republican Rep. Kelly Hastings of Cleveland County worried that same-sex marriage would lead to group marriage. “I’m just one of those traditional people – I think that marriage is reserved for one man and one woman. I think that procreation is a gift from God. I think marriage between one man and one woman is a part of that.”

Hastings made his comments to the Shelby Star.

He told the paper, “If we view marriage as anything different, it opens it up to a lot of other areas that may be controversial.”

(Read more TAI coverage of the proposed amendment in North Carolina.)

According to WRAL, the bill that was originally posted as a proposal to add term limits to the state constitution but that language will be stripped from the bill and the anti-gay marriage language added.

According to the public notices released today, the Senate Judiciary 1 committee will be meeting Monday on H61, “Speaker/Pro Tem Term Limits” – a proposal to limit the numbers of years House and Senate members can serve as leaders of their chambers.

But a new version of the bill leaked to WRAL Friday night shows the bill the committee will take up Monday has absolutely nothing to do with term limits. The new H61 is an amended version of the constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.

You can try to look it up at the legislature’s website, but you won’t find it there.

Republicans told WRAL that it was simply a procedural move.

Meanwhile, Chris Hughes, a prominent gay North Carolinian — he was a co-founder of Facebook — announced a $10,000 grant to fight the amendment.

“Companies like Facebook, Google and Apple are the future of our global economy,” Hughes wrote in a letter to state lawmakers. “But the proposed anti-gay constitutional amendment signals to these and other major employers, as well as their mobile, educated employees, that North Carolina does not welcome the diverse workforce that any state needs to compete in the international marketplace.”

(Read more TAI coverage of the proposed amendment in North Carolina.)

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