District Court in North Carolina legalizes same-sex marriage

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Attaining same-sex marriage and equal rights for the Lesbian,
Gay, Bisexual & Transsexual (LGBT) community in North Carolina

Part 12: 2014-OCT-10: Same-sex couples become
eligible to obtain marriage licenses & to marry.

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This essay is continued from the previous essay

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2014-OCT-10: A federal District Court declared Amendment One unconstitutional. Marriage now available to North Carolina same-sex couples:

During 2012-MAY, voters had passed Amendment One, to ban marriage by same-sex couples. It changed Article XIV, Section 6 of the Constitution to state:

"Marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this State. This section does not prohibit a private party from entering into contracts with another private party; nor does this section prohibit courts from adjudicating the rights of private parties pursuant to such contracts.

The vote was 61% in favor of the ban and 39% opposed following a very low turnout by voters.

Unfortunately, voters were the victim of a bait and switch operation. The Amendment was advertised as a change to the Constitution that would simply ban same-sex marriage. Unfortunately, few voters realized that Amendment One actually was written to ban same-sex marriage, civil unions, domestic partnerships, and any recognition at all of same-sex relationships. Slate Magazine commented that two polls examined what would have happened if voters had actually understood the scope of the amendment:

"One poll asked people whether they favored an amendment that 'would prevent any same-sex marriages, domestic partnerships, or civil unions.' Thirty-two percent supported that proposal. Sixty-one percent opposed it.

Another poll asked, 'If you knew that Amendment One banned both gay marriage and civil unions, would you vote yes or no?' Thirty-eight percent said yes. Forty-six percent said no.

We suspect that the advertising campaign used by the supporters of Amendment One will often be cited in the future for having accomplished the impossible: convincing the public, who supported civil unions, to stripping loving committed same-sex couples of any recognitions or protections at all.

On OCT-10, U.S. District Court Judge Max O. Cogburn of Asheville, NC, issued his ruling in the lawsuit General Synod of the United Church of Christ, et al. v. Drew Reisinger, Register of Deeds of Buncombe County."

He declared Amendment One to the North Carolina Constitution, to be unconstitutional, along with:

"... any other source of state law that operates to deny same-sex couples the right to marry in the State of North Carolina or prohibits recognition of same-sex marriages lawfully solemnized in other States, Territories, or a District of the United States, or threatens clergy or other officiants who solemnize the union of same-sex couples with civil or criminal penalties."

He also wrote:

"The court determines that North Carolina's laws prohibiting same-sex marriage are unconstitutional as a matter of law. The issue before this court is neither a political issue nor a moral issue. It is a legal issue and it is clear as a matter of what is now settled law in the Fourth Circuit that North Carolina laws prohibiting same sex marriage, refusing to recognize same sex marriages originating elsewhere, and/or threating to penalize those who would solemnize such marriages, are unconstitutional."

He issued his decision only four days after the U.S. Supreme Court had issued its ruling which denied the appeals from three Circuit Courts. One was the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals which has jurisdiction over North Carolina and three other states. That means that the decision of the Circuit Court in favor of marriage equality is settled law and is now recognized as binding on North Carolina.

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Michael Gordon, writing for the Charlotte Observer, said that Judge Cogburn:

"... erased Amendment One, the country’s last voter-approved, constitutional marriage ban, and a cultural, spiritual and political lightning rod in North Carolina.

Chris Sgro, executive director of Equality NC, said:

"Today's ruling allowing loving, same-sex couples to marry across North Carolina is a historic moment for our state. With it, we celebrate with so many North Carolinians who have worked tirelessly over decades to change hearts, minds, and unequal laws in the state we call home. Love won and the barriers to it are done."

Actually, he may be wrong. The ruling may still be appealed. However, the chance of an appeal succeeding appears to be essentially zero due to the ruling by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that legalized same-sex marriage in Virginia.

Judge Cogburn joined with about three dozen other federal court judges who have ruled on cases involving marriage equality. With one heavily criticized exception, all of the judges found bans on marriages by same-sex couples to be a violation of the due process and/or the equal access phrases in the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. These phrases require the federal, state, and local governments to treat people equally.

House Speaker Thom Tillis (R) and Senate President Phil Berger (R) had asked to join the lawsuit in opposition to marriage equality in the state. They were denied permission.

Charlotte lawyer Jake Sussman is the lead attorney for a coalition of same-sex couples, and faith group leaders who have taken the position that the ban on same-sex marriage violated their religious freedoms and the equal protection guaranteed to everyone by the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. He said, simply:

"We won!"

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Scenes at the office of the Guilford County Register of Deeds:

One of these videos includes a short sermon by a street preacher who objects to marriage equality on the basis that he understands that same-sex marriage is based on lust, not love. He also discusses the story of Sodom and Gomorrah in the Bible (Genesis 19), drawing a comparison between same sex marriage and men raping men in public against the will of the victims:


Governor Pat McCrory (R) indicated that the state would comply with the court ruling. He said:

"The administration is moving forward with the execution of the court’s ruling and will continue to do so unless otherwise notified by the courts."

David Granberry is the Register of Deeds for Mecklenburg County, which includes Charlotte NC. He said that marriage licenses would have been available on Friday in is office, except that he did not have permission for his office to remain open late. Licenses became available on Monday morning, OCT-13.

In Raleigh, Asheville and Greensboro the register of deeds' offices stayed open to handle the rush of same-sex couples. 1,2,3

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Some magistrates decided that they will not marry same-sex couples for religious reasons:

A few magistrates appear to have been caught in a bind:

  • Because of their conservative interpretation of Bible passages relating to same-gender sexual behavior, they felt that they could not marry same-sex couples.

  • Their oath of office includes a promise to administer state laws fairly as written. This now includes marrying same-sex couples.

  • Their ethic of reciprocity, commonly called the Golden Rule requires them to meet the requests of same-sex couples to be married.

On OCT-13, a magistrate in Pasquotank County refused, on the basis of his religious belief, to marry two men. Some magistrates in Alamance County said they would be unable to marry same-sex couples. The State sent a memo to all magistrates informing them that they might face suspension or dismissal if they were to violate their oath of office. This appears to have solved the problem.

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This should be the end of news about same-sex marriage in North Carolina.

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Federal judge overturns NC same-sex marriage ban." Charlotte Observer, 2014-OCT-10, at: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/
  2. William Saletan, "The Wrong Side of the Majority," Slate, 2014-OCT-10, at: http://www.slate.com/
  3. Nancy McLaughlin, "Videos: Amendment One struck down," News & Record, 2014-OCT-10, at: http://www.news-record.com/

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Site navigation: Home > Same-sex marriage > SSM menu > North Carolina > here

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Copyright 2014 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally published: 2014-OCT-11
Last updated 2014-OCT-24
Author: Bruce A Robinson
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