ACLU to move quickly to invalidate NC gay marriage ban
Posted July 29, 2014
Raleigh, N.C. — Lawyers with the American Civil Liberties Union plan to begin the process of seeking a court order invalidating North Carolina's ban on same-sex marriage within the next week.
A three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., ruled Monday that Virginia's constitutional and statutory provisions barring gay marriage and denying recognition of such unions performed in other states violate the U.S. Constitution.
Because North Carolina is part of the 4th Circuit, state Attorney General Roy Cooper said Monday that courts also would likely overturn North Carolina's 2-year-old constitutional amendment defining marriage as being between one man and one woman. Cooper said his office would no longer try to defend the amendment, saying it was a lost cause and that the issue would likely have to be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.
"(This ruling) makes very clear that Amendment One's days are numbered here in North Carolina, and it is a matter, at this point, not if Amendment One is struck down but when Amendment One is struck down," Chris Brook, legal director for the state chapter of the ACLU, said during a Tuesday news conference.
Noting that some same-sex partners in North Carolina are dealing with medical issues and would like to have their marriages from other states recognized in North Carolina as soon as possible, Brook said, "there's no reason to delay ... and there's no time to lose."
Jane Blackburn is fighting Stage 4 breast cancer, and her partner of 23 years, Lyn McCoy, worries that she won't make it to the altar.
"Frankly, we want to get married while she's still alive to do it," McCoy said.
The Greensboro couple is among six North Carolina families and several clergy members across the state who have filed separate lawsuits to overturn North Carolina's gay marriage ban.
"We want the same protections and securities that other people have," said Shawn Long of Wake Forest, another plaintiff in the case.
After first seeking to lift the stays that have stalled the cases, Brook said, the ACLU will move for judges to decide the lawsuits based on the 4th Circuit ruling in the Virginia case.
"These marriage defenses are clearly lost, at this point," he said. "Every decision from judges across the ideological spectrum has struck down these state marriage bans in the last year."
Brook said waiting for a Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage would only add to the waiting time for North Carolina couples.
"We, along with our plaintiffs, are going to move as quickly as possible to make certain that, the moment that (same-sex) marriage is permissible here in North Carolina, they will be in a position to get married," he said.
Rev. Nancy Petty, pastor of Pullen Memorial Baptist Church in Raleigh, has been blessing same-sex unions for 22 years and looks forward to presiding over such weddings.
"Marriage is one of those rights, those fundamental rights within our country, that all people should have access to," Petty said.
Meanwhile, Rev. Patrick Wooden, pastor of Upper Room Church of God in Christ in Raleigh, called the court ruling and the expected abolition of North Carolina's amendment "heartbreaking" but not surprising.
"Judges are overturning the will of the people. I believe that it is judicial overreach," Wooden said.
Although state lawmakers last year gave Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger and House Speaker Thom Tillis the option of stepping in to defend North Carolina laws when the Attorney General's Office declined to do so, Berger said Tuesday that he doesn't anticipate they will hire outside lawyers to continue fighting for the marriage amendment.