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In backing bill to protect same-sex marriage, Tillis says LGBT community owed 'certainty'

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Brian Godette
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U.S. Army Reserve
Thom Tillis was one of 12 GOP Senators to vote in favor of a bill codifying same-sex marriage on Wednesday.

North Carolina Republican Sen. Thom Tillis said Thursday he helped craft a bipartisan compromise to protect gay marriage because people in the LGBT community are “owed some certainty.”

Tillis was one of 12 GOP U.S. senators this week to advance the Respect for Marriage Act, which would codify same-sex marriage in the United States.

North Carolina’s other senator, Republican Richard Burr, also voted to advance the bill.

A decade ago, Tillis, from Cornelius, was the state House speaker when Republicans placed Amendment One on the ballot, which prohibited same-sex marriages in North Carolina.

When asked what changed, Tillis said there are more than one million people in either same-sex marriages or civil unions. And he said they deserve some assurances that their marriages will be recognized wherever they live.

“Let’s say the Supreme Court decision is reversed,” Tillis said during a news conference. “We think we owe this community some certainty that if they are in states that recognize same-sex marriage they can move freely through the United States and keep their families secure.”

When the Court overturned Roe v. Wade this summer, Justice Clarence Thomas floated the idea that the court could also revisit the landmark 2015 decision in Obergefell v. Hodges that legalized same-sex marriage.

The Respect for Marriage Act would require that people be considered married in any state as long as the marriage was allowed in the state where it was performed.

It has passed in the House and will be considered by the Senate again after Thanksgiving. Wednesday’s 62-37 vote broke any possible filibuster by Senate Republicans.

Tillis said he pushed for exemptions in the bill because he’s worried that in the future religious organizations could be compelled “to do something that is against their religious beliefs. And I stand with the religious community that that is inappropriate.”

That could include a religious group not having to perform a same-sex wedding.

The bill also would prohibit polygamy.

South Carolina's two Republican Senators — Tim Scott and Lindsey Graham — voted no.

Tillis was asked about Donald Trump’s announcement this week that he will run for president again in 2024.

He declined to back Trump for now and said he and voters need more time to look at other Republicans who will run. He said the GOP’s top priority is to ensure Herschel Walker wins the Senate run-off in Georgia next month against Democratic incumbent Raphael Warnock.

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Steve Harrison is WFAE's politics and government reporter. Prior to joining WFAE, Steve worked at the Charlotte Observer, where he started on the business desk, then covered politics extensively as the Observer’s lead city government reporter. Steve also spent 10 years with the Miami Herald. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, the Sporting News and Sports Illustrated.