Epic Debate in NC Senate on Sharia Law/Abortion Bill 7/3/13

By Story of America Team

Note: There are two videos about what happened Wednesday, July 3, 2013 at the NC General Assembly when the Senate voted on HB 695 “Faith, Family and Freedom Protection Act”: One documenting what happened inside the Senate chamber and one documenting what happened outside the Senate chamber after the vote. 

As they near the close of the 2013 session, North Carolina Republican senators pulled together a bill (HB 695 “The Faith, Family and Freedom Protection Act) that combines a law prohibiting the recognition of Sharia law in family courts with dramatic restrictions on abortion access.

On July 3rd, with less than 14 hours of notice given to the public, the NC Senate passionately debated and then voted for the bil. along party lines and passed the bill. 

Twitter and Facebook exploded with outrage. Between 8pm on July 2nd and 9am on July 3rd, NARAL and Planned Parenthood led the online mobilization. Hundreds of men and women showed up at the General Assembly to witness and protest. Wearing pink and purple in solidarity against the bill, they were armed with smart phones, sharing their comments and images on the web. 

Because the progressive network was already actively engaged from Moral Mondays (for ten weeks now, a civil disobedience action led by NAACP NC to protest against ALEC-inspired conservative policies), the sudden appearance of an omnibus bill against abortion near the close of the 2013 session of the General Assembly was akin to a legislative firebomb. 

The gallery of the Senate chamber, which normally has a dozen people sitting in it, was packed with many people standing. Hundreds were outside the gallery, pressed near the glass doors trying to hear and see.

Lt. Governor Dan Forest, who presides over the Senate, repeatedly warned the people in the gallery that they must remain silent — not even silent gestures were allowed. The Capitol police were tasked with the thankless job of trying to control the people in the gallery so that they complied with the Lt. Governor’s orders. 

The debate among the senators was riveting, even though all participants including the audience knew that the outcome. The only thing that was unpredictable was how the people outside would respond after the vote. 

The Republican Senators fully engaged their Democratic colleagues, and responded to their objections, including one about the process. Sen. Tom Apodaca, Chairman of the Senate Rules Committee, arguing that the Democrats did exactly the same thing in the past. There was no response to that from the Democrats on that point. 

After the passionate debate, the bill passed along party lines with notable absences among Republicans including Senators Rabon, Barringer, Rucho, and Hartsell. 

The bill now goes to the House and Speaker Thom Tillis must decide if he will schedule it for a vote. The House Committee on Health and Human Services is scheduled to consider it on Tuesday at 10am. If it passes the committee, the bill may go to the House floor for a vote by 2pm on that day.

Pro-choice and pro-life groups are calling on people to turn out for the protest starting at 9am on Tuesday in front of the General Assembly. 

Governor McCrory has not said whether or not he would sign it, but he has said that the process was objectionable. Even if he does not sign it, the bill will become law after 30 days if the House passes it. 

The interplay of the inside/outside the Senate chamber is fascinating. The glass bubble that is Senate chamber was punctured by laughs, clapping, hand signals, and finally shouting and chanting. 

I think what happened in Raleigh on July 3rd reveals a deep truth about the current state of democracy in NC: the people are regarded as “outsiders” who must shout or get arrested in order to be heard.