Sen. Thom Tillis Supported Same-Sex Marriage and Red Flag Laws. North Carolina’s GOP Censured Him.

He’s apparently no longer conservative enough for his state party.

Mariam Zuhaib/AP

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You know US politics have changed drastically when someone as conservative as North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis (R) gets censured by his own party for not being extreme enough. 

In 2007, as a member of the state legislature, Tillis tried to stop North Carolina from apologizing for a racist massacre that happened in 1898 and left 25 Black residents dead after a week of rioting. The position was considered radical even then and threatened his campaign for the US Senate when it came up again in 2014. Fast forward to Saturday, when the state Republican Party decided that Tillis had become too liberal for their ranks. 

Tillis’ blasphemies are mild at best, even by Republican standards. He helped pass the Respect For Marriage Act, which codified legal protections for same-sex and interracial marriages. He supported funding for red flag laws, which would temporarily take guns out of the hands of domestic abusers, people with severe mental illness, and other individuals in crisis who clearly pose a threat to themselves or the public. And he (briefly) opposed President Donald Trump’s plan to divert military funding to build a southern border wall. 

The censure vote came during the state GOP convention, where two-thirds of the thousand or so delegates voted in favor of the censure to send a warning shot to any party member who might be considering a break from dogma as the party purges any modicum of moderation from its ranks. In a statement, the party explained that the vote was intended to hold elected officials accountable to the party platform

Tillis is the second extremely conservative North Carolina senator the state party has censured in the past two years as it has further aligned itself with Trumpism. In 2021, the party voted unanimously to censure retired Sen. Richard Burr for being one of only seven Republicans in the Senate who voted to impeach Trump in his second impeachment trial. Like Tillis, Burr was a deeply conservative Senator. “It is truly a sad day for North Carolina Republicans,” Burr said in a statement after that vote. “My party’s leadership has chosen loyalty to one man over the core principles of the Republican Party and the founders of our great nation.”

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