GOP legislative leaders ask to intervene in NC gay marriage cases

Posted October 9, 2014

— As same-sex couples in North Carolina await federal court rulings they hope will allow them to get married, Republican legislative leaders Thursday afternoon made a last-minute effort to block or delay the nuptials.

Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger and House Speaker Thom Tillis filed a motion to intervene in the matter, a move that Berger spokeswoman Shelly Carver said is "to defend the will of more than 60 percent of North Carolina voters who cast ballots defining marriage as between one man and one woman in our state constitution."

Chief U.S. District Court Judge William Osteen Jr. set a noon Friday deadline for them to lay out their legal arguments in the case, rejecting their request to delay any decision in the matter until at least Oct. 17.

"These cases have been pending for a lengthy period of time," Osteen said, adding that lawmakers haven't offered any legal argument in favor of the gay marriage ban that the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals hasn't already set aside when it overturned a similar ban in Virginia this summer.

After the 4th Circuit ruling, North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper said he would no longer defend the state's 2-year-old amendment prohibiting gay marriage.

State lawmakers voted last year to give legislative leaders legal standing equal to that of the state attorney general to fight for North Carolina laws in court.

John Eastman, chairman of the National Organization for Marriage – a group that lobbies against same-sex marriage – has been retained by Tillis and Berger as primary counsel, along with local counsel Bob Potter and the public interest law firm ActRight Legal Foundation, to represent North Carolina.

The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina criticized the lawmakers' motion, calling it a waste of taxpayer money. Equality North Carolina called it "both reprehensible and inconsequential."

"Love has won, and the time to play politics with Tar Heel families is done," the LGBT advocacy group said in a statement.

Eastman, Carver said, has agreed to provide the first $10,000 of service pro bono and has reduced his hourly rate by more than a third. He will be paid $400 per hour.

Gov. Pat McCrory, a Republican, wouldn't say Thursday whether he supports lawmakers' effort, saying only that he respects the judicial process.

"It's my job to follow the laws – not only the constitution of North Carolina but the Constitution of the United States of America – and I'll do just that," McCrory said.

Waiting for marriage

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday refused to hear an appeal of the Virginia case, as well as cases in four other states. Two days later, Osteen lifted stays in lawsuits challenging North Carolina's marriage ban.

That triggered a flurry of legal filings across the country, including in North Carolina, where the prospect that same-sex marriage could be imminent sparked excitement among couples who have waited for years to either get married or have their marriages from other states legally recognized.

At the Register of Deeds Office inside the Wake County Justice Center on Thursday, clerks waited to begin issuing gender-neutral marriage licenses, and extra magistrates were on standby to begin marrying gay and lesbian couples.

Among them were Chad Biggs, a Wake County sheriff's deputy, and his partner of eight years, Chris Creech, a sworn sheriff's deputy working in information technology.

"I think this is going to be one of those moments when our children look at this 20 years down the road and ask, 'Two people couldn't get married?'" said Biggs, who works as a bailiff.

Outside the Justice Center, the Rev. John Saxon, of Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Raleigh, waited to officiate some of the first marriages.

"My plan is for anyone who would like to get married right here today – to celebrate a committed relationship, regardless of gender – (to do so)," Saxon said. "I want to be here for them."

How long Biggs, Creech and Saxon will wait is now the question on everyone's minds.

"I would be surprised, at this point, if anything stops it," Creech said. "We've come this far, so we can deal with a little more delay, if we have to."


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  • Tommie Chavis Oct 10, 2014
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    We be legally Married Now.....

  • Terry Watts Oct 10, 2014
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    . Supremacy Clause... Look it up...

  • Erica Allison-Mayberry Oct 10, 2014
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    Federal gov't doesn't have the right to come into our state's constitution and rearrange it to suit them or those who whine about the issue. If you don't like our voting results, then go to a place that allows you to do so. Stop trying to change our state's constitution!

  • USMC Vet Oct 10, 2014

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    "(State) Laws can't violate any part of the (United States) Constitution."


  • Barely Oct 10, 2014

    People are getting their facts mixed up. Here are some facts.
    1) I am a Christian and have no problem with gay marriage, because people should be able to do as they wish as long as it is not hurting anyone.
    2) There are too many people making out religion as an evil, and invoking the Constitution as the weapon against religion. That goes against the very purpose of the Constitution.
    3) A lot of people need to quit telling others their beliefs are wrong. No one has the right to belittle someone for their beliefs, just because they are contradictory to your own.

  • Red Baird Oct 10, 2014
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    If there weren’t somebody to overrule NC there would still be slaves and interracial marriage would be illegal. States are generally allowed to make their own laws but some states NEED over sight to guide them down the right path.

  • Tammy Rush Oct 10, 2014
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    "If The People vote for a law based on religious priciples and it doesn't violate the Bill of Rights... it can be a law."

    Laws can't violate any part of the Constitution.

  • theysayirock Oct 10, 2014

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    "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion" First line, First amendment. You read it!

  • Red Baird Oct 10, 2014
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    Guess what, my vote cancels yours.

  • Barely Oct 10, 2014

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    Whether you believe in any religion or not, no where does it say relious law cannot be the law of the country. You need to actually read the constitution. If The People vote for a law based on religious priciples and it doesn't violate the Bill of Rights... it can be a law. The only parts in the Constitution that deal with religion in any way are the disallowance of a state sponsored church and the protection of religious freedom.