Thom Tillis Censured by State GOP over Same-Sex Marriage Vote
One of the prime figures urging Republicans to support legislation imposing same-sex marriage on the entire country has been censured by an overwhelming majority of his state Republican Party.
The North Carolina Republican Party officially condemned Senator Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) in large part over his support for H.R. 8404, which opponents dubbed the Disrespect for Marriage Act. The sweeping federal mandate requires all 50 states to recognize any marriage legally contracted in any other state — a de facto national redefinition of marriage. Tillis not only supported the bill alongside 11 other Senate Republicans but “lobbied his GOP colleagues in Congress to vote in favor of” the bill, according to the Associated Press.
Tillis opted not to address, nor defend his actions, to delegates at the state party’s annual convention in Greensboro last Saturday, which chastised Tillis for “blatant violations of our party platform” by a whopping 799-361 vote. The measure, which needed two-thirds of attendees’ votes, passed with 25 votes to spare.
Video footage shows hundreds of delegates bursting into raucous cheers as the convention announced the vote outcome.
“Senator Tillis worked with NC Values Coalition on the Marriage Amendment for North Carolina, so it was a surprise to our coalition when he spearheaded federal recognition of same-sex marriage and voted for the so-called ‘Respect for Marriage’ bill,” Tami Fitzgerald, executive director of the NC Values Coalition, told The Washington Stand. “We appealed to Senator Tillis for months to oppose the legislation, because it would not only contradict the time-honored definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman, but it would also infringe on religious liberties and would put faith-based organizations and ministries at risk. The censure was a clear message from conservatives who support traditional values that elected officials will be held accountable for their votes and actions.”
“Senator Tillis’s vote put our religious freedoms at risk and advanced the LGTQ agenda, a move North Carolina conservatives won’t forget,” Fitzgerald told TWS.
The fact that the anti-Tillis measure could attract such a large proportion of votes “just demonstrates how unpopular he is among the grassroots activists and core party base,” said Charles Hellwig, a North Carolina-based Republican political consultant. Tillis, who faces reelection in 2026, scored a meager 23% approval rating in a High Point University poll taken last August.
The final vote fulfilled grassroots Republicans’ promise to deny Tillis access to all state party campaign funds if he faces a primary challenge.
Felice Pete, a state GOP delegate, expressed the frustration of many present, saying, “I worked hard for him in the hot sun, with my son in a stroller, knocking doors. So the very least that he could do for the people back in North Carolina is stick to the platform.”
“There’s only two parties,” said Pete. “Make your choice.”
The North Carolina Republican Party did not immediately respond to The Washington Stand’s attempt to obtain the full text of the Tillis censure resolution. However, a resolution adopted last December by the state party’s executive committee said Tillis’s vote “redefines marriage, threatens religious freedom, and nationalizes policies that subvert Judeo-Christian values.”
Saturday’s censure resolution also mentioned Tillis for advocating amnesty for illegal immigrants and incentivizing states to adopt so-called “red flag laws,” which allow government officials to disarm any U.S. citizen declared a threat without due process.
At the time, Tillis called the national marriage redefinition bill “a good compromise” that provides “robust protections for churches and religious organizations.” But dozens of constitutional and religious liberty organizations warned that the so-called Respect for Marriage Act would usher in a “new era of oppression” for Christians who hold to biblical morality. Lawsuits have drained the bank accounts and ended the ministries of many supporters of natural marriage, including Masterpiece Cakeshop owner Jack Phillips, 303 Creative web designer Lori Smith, and elderly florist Barronelle Stutzman.
The Senate rejected expansive religious liberty amendments offered by Senators Mike Lee (R-Utah) and James Lankford (R-Okla.), substituting an amendment that merely says nonprofits may not be compelled to perform same-sex wedding ceremonies, which nonprofits typically do not do. It offered conscientious objectors no additional protection from politically or ideologically motivated lawsuits filed by well-funded LGBTQ groups.
Saturday’s censure resolution also criticized Tillis for advocating amnesty for illegal immigrants and incentivizing states to adopt so-called “red flag laws,” which allow government officials to disarm any U.S. citizen declared a threat without due process.
“He will never apologize,” said Tillis spokesman Daniel Keylin after the convention’s reprimand, because “the senator keeps his promises and delivers results.”
Despite losing the vote more than two-to-one, Tillis found a few defenders within the state GOP’s ranks. State Senator Jim Burgin (R-12), who once said “the freedom of [a same-sex] couple to get married needs to be protected,” stated that he opposed the state party’s official rebuke on religious grounds. “As a Christian, I believe if we have a problem with somebody, we go to them directly and deal with it,” he said. “That’s not the way I would have handled it as a Christian.” State Sen. Bobby Hanig (R-3) accused his party of engaging in a “mob mentality,” adding that Tillis “does a lot” for portions of his district, “so why would I want to make him mad?”
Former Governor Pat McCrory called on “all NC state and federal elected republicans to stand with Thom and publicly voice their opposition to” the delegates’ action. In 2015, McCrory vetoed a religious liberty bill that said Christian magistrates could not be forced to carry out same-sex wedding ceremonies. The legislature subsequently overturned his veto. McCrory lost to current Democratic Governor Roy Cooper one year later and ended his political career last May after being “trounced by 34 percentage points” in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate by conservative Ted Budd.
Voting for same-sex marriage violates the official positions of both the state and national Republican Party.
“Our nation’s strength lies with the family. It is the first school of discipline, responsibility, and good citizenship,” reads the first article of the 2022 North Carolina Republican Party platform. “Traditional marriage and family, based on marriage between one man and one woman, is the foundation for a civil society. … [W]e affirm our support for traditional marriage.” The most recent national Republican Party platform, readopted in 2020, states:
“Traditional marriage and family, based on marriage between one man and one woman, is the foundation for a free society and has for millennia been entrusted with rearing children and instilling cultural values. We condemn the Supreme Court’s ruling in United States v. Windsor, which wrongly removed the ability of Congress to define marriage policy in federal law. We also condemn the Supreme Court's lawless ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, which in the words of the late Justice Antonin Scalia, was a ‘judicial Putsch’ — full of ‘silly extravagances’ — that reduced ‘the disciplined legal reasoning of John Marshall and Joseph Storey to the mystical aphorisms of a fortune cookie.’ In Obergefell, five unelected lawyers robbed 320 million Americans of their legitimate constitutional authority to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman.”
Social conservatives have stepped up efforts to take back their party from politicians who vote for progressive legislation on marriage, family, and other issues.
In February, the Republican Party of Wyoming formally censured Senator Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.), who justified her vote for same-sex marriage by invoking her Christian faith. The Republican Party of Texas (RPT) censured Rep. Tony Gonzales (R-Texas) in March, citing his support for the anti-family marriage bill, opposition to border security, and hostility to Second Amendment rights. Gonzales is “discouraged from participating” in the 2024 Republican primaries and, if he becomes the nominee, the RPT promises to give him no financial support beyond the bare minimum required by law. Gonzales responded with a Spanish vulgar phrase.
A dozen local Republican committee chairs slammed Senator Joni Ernst and Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks (both R-Iowa) last December, noting the “Pelosi-Schumer ‘Respect for Marriage Act’ poses an existential threat to religious liberty and tax-exempt status of organizations.”
“Homosexuality clearly violates the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God,” they added.
Rep. Ashley Hinson (R-Iowa) also faced censure by the Black Hawk County and Tama County chapters of GOP.
In last weekend’s vote in North Carolina, said Alamance Republican Women chairwoman Judy Carter, the grassroots made a plea for elected representatives to better represent the electorate.
“We want you to remember who voted for you,” she said.
Ben Johnson is senior reporter and editor at The Washington Stand.