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North Carolina GOP Censures Sen. Thom Tillis for Marriage Equality Support

North Carolina GOP Censures Sen. Thom Tillis for Marriage Equality Support

U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina

Delegates to the state Republican convention also objected to his vote for a gun control bill.

North Carolina Republicans have voted to censure the state’s senior U.S. senator, Thom Tillis, over his support for marriage equality and gun regulations, plus his criticism of Donald Trump’s immigration policies.

Delegates to the Republican state convention took the vote Saturday, and the motion to censure Tillis passed by a margin of 799 to 361, according toThe News & Observer of Raleigh, N.C.

“Although the move does not remove Tillis from office, it is a formal statement of disapproval,” The Washington Postnotes. The Associated Press adds that supporters “hope it sends a firm message of dissatisfaction.”

Tillis is in his second term in the Senate, having been reelected in 2020. He will be up for reelection in 2026.

He was one of 12 Senate Republicans who voted for the Respect for Marriage Act, which passed last year and wrote protections for same-sex and interracial marriages into federal law. He lobbied fellow Republicans to support it as well, while working for a religious freedom amendment to the legislation.

He was among 15 GOP senators who backed the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which also passed. It “expands criminal background checks for some gun buyers, bars a larger group of domestic-violence offenders from being able to purchase firearms, and funds programs that would allow authorities to seize guns from troubled individuals,” the Post explains.

On immigration, when Trump was president, Tillis initially opposed the use of military funds to build Trump’s much-touted wall at the U.S.-Mexico border but eventually supported the move.

Trump attended the North Carolina convention, as did some others seeking the 2024 Republican presidential nomination — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former Vice President Mike Pence.

Several delegates to the convention explained their votes to media outlets. “We need people who are unwavering in their support for conservative ideals,” delegate Jim Forster told the AP. “His recent actions don’t reflect the party’s shift to the right — in fact, they’re moving in the exact wrong direction.”

Felice Pete, president of the Wake County Republican Women, told The News & Observer, “The censure vote happened because the people felt like Sen. Tillis no longer took account of our platform.” Both the state and national Republican platforms oppose marriage equality.

Some delegates also found Tillis insufficiently opposed to abortion rights, even though he has generally supported restrictions, such as proposing a national ban on the procedure after 20 weeks. Delegate Steve Carter told the Raleigh paper, “You have a viable life from the time of conception. That’s what the Bible says.”

Some Republicans objected to the censure, among them former North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory, who’s known for signing the state’s infamous anti-transgender bathroom law, now repealed. McCrory tweeted his denunciation of the censure Saturday. Others said it shows the party is not a “big tent” that can accommodate diverse views.

On LGBTQ+ rights, although Tillis backed the Respect for Marriage Act, he is not a full-on ally. He scored only 20 points out of 100 on the Human Rights Campaign’s Congressional Scorecard for the 117th session of Congress, which ran from January 2021 to January 2023 and included his vote on the Respect for Marriage Act. He had zeroes for the previous two sessions.

A spokesperson for Tillis defended the senator’s conservative credentials. “He will never apologize for his work passing the largest tax cut in history, introducing legislation to secure the border and end sanctuary cities, delivering desperately-needed funding to strengthen school safety and protecting the rights of churches to worship freely based on their belief in traditional marriage,” said a statement from spokesperson Daniel Keylin.

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