Local News

NC Supreme Court overturns scope-of-marriage ruling

Posted August 24, 2012 12:46 p.m. EDT

— The North Carolina Supreme Court on Friday overturned an appellate court ruling that experts said could have expanded the definition of marriage in the state.

The case arose from the end of Juma Mussa's 12-year marriage to Nikki Palmer-Mussa. He wanted their marriage annulled, ending his alimony payments, on the grounds of bigamy.

Before marrying Mussa in 1997, Nikki Palmer had married Khalil Braswell in Maryland under Islamic law. They had no license and were married by a construction worker who was Braswell's friend.

She said the marriage was never consummated, and she soon ended it under Islamic law by returning the dowry and declaring herself divorced.

The North Carolina Court of Appeals ruled last fall that, even though her ceremony to Braswell "failed to meet statutory requirements," Palmer-Mussa still needed to get a judge to grant her a divorce or annul the marriage. The court then voided her marriage to Mussa.

The Supreme Court reversed that decision, saying that Mussa never challenged many of the facts in the case initially, so the appeals court was required to stick with a lower judge's finding that there was insufficient evidence to conclude that Palmer and Braswell were legally married.