N.C. Congressman Opposes Antigay Amendment, Will Cosponsor DOMA Repeal

By Andrew Harmon

Originally published on Advocate.com September 15 2011 8:40 AM ET

Speaking with The Advocate, Rep. Brad Miller, a Democrat who represents North Carolina’s 13th congressional district, said Wednesday afternoon of DOMA repeal, “For a couple who has been married legally, every state should be required to give full faith and credit. North Carolina would still not be required to perform civil marriage, but it would be required to [recognize] marriages performed in other states.”

Of the state antigay amendment, which the North Carolina legislature approved earlier this week to go before voters during the Republican presidential primary in May, Miller said, “This is entirely about putting on the ballot a very divisive issue for political purposes ... and to try to lock in the attitudes of one generation. The amendment goes well beyond marriage and would prohibit any type of civil union legal recognition as well.”

The timing of the ballot question will likely boost the chances of the measure’s success in North Carolina, the only state in the Southeast without a constitutional ban against equality. Though the state already has a statute banning same-sex marriage, proponents of the ballot measure argue that a constitutional amendment is needed to prevent the courts from overturning the ban.

Miller said the amendment, if passed, also could negatively affect gay-friendly companies in the state seeking to attract and retain top-tier employees.

A former member of the North Carolina legislature first elected to Congress in 2002, Miller is the 123rd House cosponsor of legislation to repeal DOMA, which bans federal recognition of same-sex marriages and is opposed by the Obama administration. Earlier this week, the current House bill, known as the Respect for Marriage Act, exceeded the number of cosponsors compared to the last congressional session when representatives Tim Walz of Minnesota and Jim Langevin of Rhode Island signed on in support.

The House repeal bill was originally introduced in 2009 by New York representative Jerrold Nadler and in the Senate in March by California senator Dianne Feinstein. (Update: A spokesman for Nadler said the bill picked up another cosponsor Thursday, Washington representative Adam Smith, a Democrat and ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee.)

Miller is the second North Carolina representative to cosponsor the repeal bill, joining Rep. David Price, a Democrat representing the state’s fourth district, whose office told The Advocate Wednesday that he also opposed the state antigay constitutional amendment. A spokesman for Rep. Howard Coble, a North Carolina Republican, said he supports the amendment.

Miller, whose district lies in the northern part of the state and includes sections of Raleigh and Greensboro as well as Wake Forest, said he had not previously considered cosponsoring DOMA repeal, though he said he does have gay friends who have married elsewhere in the country, including a member of his staff. Following a telephone interview with this magazine, the congressman said he had notified Nadler’s office regarding his decision to cosponsor the bill (a Nadler spokesman confirmed that Miller is now a cosponsor).

Though political observers don’t expect DOMA repeal to move this year in a Republican-controlled House, sources said that LGBT advocacy groups are actively lobbying for Republican cosponsors, though they have yet to draw any public support from across the aisle.

Miller was joined by state and national LGBT groups in condemning the state legislature’s approval of the amendment for the May ballot as a cynical affront to North Carolina’s LGBT citizens.

"Politically scheming to put such a cruel and discriminatory measure on a low-turnout Republican presidential primary ballot is a sham designed to circumvent the majority of North Carolina voters, who polls say oppose this amendment and the injury it will inflict not just on families, but the state,” said Marc Solomon, national campaign director for Freedom to Marry.

On the same day that he praised Oregon’s Republican Party for stripping antigay language from its platform, Log Cabin Republicans executive director R. Clarke Cooper called the North Carolina move a “[retreat] to the politics of the past."

"[A] party which does not respect the freedom and dignity of all Americans will alienate the moderate, independent and younger voters we need to succeed,” Cooper said.

Though he did not specifically address the North Carolina amendment, White House spokesman Shin Inouye said Tuesday, “The record is clear that the president has long opposed divisive and discriminatory efforts to deny rights and benefits to same-sex couples. The president believes strongly in stopping laws designed to take rights away.”