Marriage Equality USA

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State of North Carolina
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Current Status

  • Civil marriage equality in effect at the state level since October 2014. (Same-sex couples may legally marry.)

HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE

  • In 2008, the North Carolina General Assembly added a provision to the Patients’ Bill of Rights affording hospital visitation rights to same-sex couples via a "designated visitor" statute.
  • In 2012, by passing Amendment 1, North Carolina became the 30th state, and the last of the former Confederate states, to adopt a constitutional amendment defining marriage to exclude same-sex couples.
  • The film One: A Story of Love and Equality chronicles the passionate fight against Amendment 1 and features MEUSA's Program Manager Tracy Hollister
  • Until 10 October 2014, marriage equality was prohibited by a 1996 statute, and by a 2012 constitutional ban on same-sex marriage and civil unions per North Carolina Amendment 1.

Legislation - Pending

SB 2 - Magistrates Recusal for Civil Ceremonies

Date Introduced: 28 January 2015
Author/Sponsor: Philip E. Berger;  (Primary), Chad Barefoot, Andrew C. Brock, Bill Cook, David L. Curtis, Warren Daniel, Jim Davis, Kathy Harrington, Ralph Hise, Joyce Krawiec, E. S. (Buck) Newton, Louis Pate, Ronald J. Rabin, Shirley B. Randleman, Norman W. Sanderson, Dan Soucek, Tommy Tucker, and Trudy Wade 
Date Enacted: 11 June 2015

Description:

  • This is another so-called "religious protections" bill that creates exemptions to okay discrimination by public officials. Described by government as: An Act To Allow Magistrates, Assistant Registers Of Deeds, And Deputy Registers Of Deeds To Recuse Themselves From Performing Duties Related To Marriage Ceremonies Due To Sincerely Held Religious Objection.
  • 2 February 2015, passed first reading and referred to Committee on Rules and Operations of the Senate.
  • 4 February 2015, Withdrawn from Committee and re-referred to Committee on Judiciary I
  • 18 February 2015, Withdrawn from Committee and re-referred to Committee on Judiciary II
  • 24 February 2015, Committee substitute adopted
  • 25 February 2015, passed second reading; passed third reading. North Carolina Senate Votes To Allow Discrimination At The Marriage Bureau - By David Badash, The New Civil Rights Movement
  • 27 February 2015, regular message sent to, and received from, the House.
  • 31 March 2015, North Carolina's Governor Says He Won't Sign State Senate's 'Religious Freedom' Bill - Jean Ann Esselink, The New Civil rights Movement
  • 11 June 2015, per the ACLU, overriding the governor’s veto, the North Carolina legislature ratified a bill (SB2) that will allow magistrates, assistant registers of deeds, and deputy registers of deeds to recuse themselves from performing marriages and issuing marriage license, if they have a sincerely held religious objection. A magistrate, assistant register of deeds, or deputy register of deeds who recuses may not perform any marriages or issue any marriage licenses until the recusal is rescinded in writing. The bill charges the chief district court judge and the register of deeds with ensuring that all individuals are able to receive a marriage license and have their marriage performed if a magistrate, assistant register of deeds, or deputy register of deeds refuses.
  • It is expected the enacting of bill into law will be challenged in court on the grounds that it is unconstitutional.

 

Legislation - Enacted

None.

 

Lawsuits - Pending

General Synod v. Tillis (Formerly UCC v. Resinger; formerly General Synod of the United Church of Christ v. Cooper)

Case #: 14-2225 (4th Circuit); 3:14-cv-213 (Federal District Court)
Date Filed: 28 April 2014
Date of Appeal: 7 November 2014

Description:

  • The United Church of Christ (UCC), other local clergy and same-sex couples filed suit against the State of North Carolina and its anti-LGBT constitutional amendment, citing First Amendment guarantees of freedom of religion.
  • The group of Charlotte-area ministers helped to launch the country’s first faith-based challenge to same-sex marriage bans, claiming that North Carolina’s laws block them from practicing their religion. The lawsuit was the 66th legal challenge to marriage bans. It is the first to attack same-sex marriage bans on religious grounds. This suit is also the first time an entire denomination has joined the marriage battle. The United Church of Christ (UCC), headquartered in Cleveland, has more than 1.1 million members and 5,100 local churches.
  • 10 October 2014, U.S. District Judge Coburn ruled: "Defendants are PERMANENTLY ENJOINED from enforcing such laws to the extent these laws prohibit a person from marrying another person of the same gender, prohibit recognition of same-sex marriages lawfully solemnized in other States, Territories, or a District of the United States, or seek to punish in any way clergy or other officiants who solemnize the union of same-sex couples." Judgement was entered.
  • 7 November 2014, Tillis and Berger filed a Notice of Appeal.
  • 5 December 2014, the 4th Circuit issued an order that consolidates all of the appeals and cross-appeals - 5 in all - with General Synod v. Tillis, number 14-2225, designated as the lead case.
  • 5 December 2014, a briefing order was also filed.
  • 12 December 2014, appellants Thom Tillis and Phil Berger filed a Motion to stay proceedings pending resolution of any petitions to the Supreme Court. The motion also indicates Tillis/Berger intend to petition for cert before judgment in this case. 
  • 12 December 2014, New same-sex marriage case on way to the Court (SCOTUS) - By Lyle Denniston, SCOTUSblog
  • 22 & 23 December 2014, plaintiffs filed their responses to the appellants' motion to put the appeals on hold pending a final Supreme Court decision on marriage cases. Gerber and Fisher-Borne plaintiffs oppose a stay. And, General Synod of the UCC, et al., plaintiffs propose extending the briefing schedule by 60 days to assess impact of any anticipated Supreme Court proceedings.  
  • 5 January 2015, North Carolina Legislators Tillis and Berger had asked to stay the appeals court proceedings pending a final decision pending resolution of any petitions to the Supreme Court. The 4th Circuit denied that motion and set a new briefing schedule.
  • As promised, North Carolina legislators have taken their appeal in the marriage case to the U.S. Supreme Court, via Berger v. Fisher-Borne (United States Supreme Court appeal in North Carolina marriage case).
  • 4 February 2015, talk about worrying something to death! Tillis, et al., filed a notice today with the 4th Circuit in a round-about ask to have their request for a stay, already denied once, reconsidered. They would like to put this case on hold until the Supreme Court decides the marriage cases and have already made a request to do that. Plaintiffs objected and the court denied that first request.
  • 10 February 2015, the 4th Circuit put the North Carolina appeals on hold until the U.S. Supreme Court decides the marriage cases.
    "The court places this case in abeyance pending the United States Supreme Court's decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, No. 14-556, Tanco v. Haslam, No. 14-562, DeDoer v. Synder, No 14-571, and Bourke v. Beshear, No. 14-574.
    "The parties shall immediately notify this court in writing when the Supreme Court has issued an opinion in these consolidated cases."
Gerber v. Cooper

Case #: 1:14-cv-00299
Court Level: 4th Circuit Court of Appeals
Date Filed: 28 April 2014
Date of Appeal: 6 November 2014

Description:

  • 28 April 2014, a suit was filed on behalf of three same-sex couples married in other jurisdictions, one of whom is elderly and the others of whom face medical needs to have their marriages promptly respected.
  • 28 April 2014, a motion for a preliminary injunction was also filed.
  • 6 May 2014, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss.
  • 12 May 2014, the defendants filed a response to the motion for a stay and expedited review.
  • 22 May 2014, the defendants filed reply.
  • 2 June 2014, the Magistrate Judge recommended a stay pending a decision in Bostic v. Schaefer.
  • 13 June 2014, the plaintiffs filed their objections to a stay pending Bostic.
  • 28 July 2014, NC Attorney General Roy Cooper said he will stop defending the ban on marriage equality in NC per the Bostic ruling.
  • 30 July 2014, in light of the 4th Circuit ruling in Bostic, the court ordered the parties in this case and in Fisher-Borne v. Smith (below)  to supplement their positions as to how the cases should proceed. The identical order was issued in both cases.
  • 27 August 2014, the judge ordered the case stayed until the Supreme Court lifts the stay in the Virginia marriage case, Bostic. This effectively stays the case until SCOTUS either rules on one of the marriages cases or decides it won't be taking up the issue (the latter highly unlikely).
  • 22 September 2014, plaintiffs ask the Court to lift the stays and allow the district court cases to proceed. 
  • 6 October 2014, the Court relieved parties of the requirement that parties inform the Court of any action in the 4th Circuit (Bostic) cert petitions, noting the 6 October 2014 SCOTUS order (pg 39), but asked for a status report to address specific points listed in the order, including whether the 4th Circuit ruling in the Virginia case leaves any additional issues unresolved in this case.
  • 7 October 2014, the plaintiffs filed their status report; the same day, the state defendants filed their status report.
  • 8 October 2014, the judge has issued an order that now lets this case move forward to a conclusion. 
  • 8 October 2014, the defendants filed their answer ( in reference to this complaint). 
  • 9 October 2014, the Court issued an order asking for clarification from the parties as to specifics of an anticipated injunction - due today by 5:00pm. 
  • 9 October 2014, plaintiffs' response to the order. State defendants' response.
  • 9 October 2014, Thom Tillis, North Carolina Speaker of the House of Representatives, and Phil Berger, President Pro Tempore of the North Carolina Senate, on behalf of themselves, and their members and constituents, filed a Motion to Intervene. Memo in Support of Motion.
  • 9 October 2014, the legislators requested an 8-day extension to prepare; Judge Osteen denied that request and gave the  intervenors until 12 noon on 10 October 2014 to file their completed motion. 
  • 10 October 2014, Proposed Intervenors filed the supplement to their motion to intervene (answers and defenses) in response to October 9th court order. 
  • 10 October 2014, the Proposed Intervenors filed a Request for Oral Argument
  • 10 October 2014, Judge Osteen ordered additional briefs from the parties and denied the request for oral argument. Parities' briefs are due by Monday 13 October 2014, but can be filed earlier and "no reply will be permitted unless ordered by this court." 
  • 13 October 2014, the plaintiffs filed their response to Judge Osteen's order re: GOP intervention, as did the Attorney General.
  • 14 October 2014, Judge Osteen permited legislators' intervention but "only for the purpose of lodging an objection and preserving that objection to this court’s application of Bostic."
  • 14 October 2014, Judge Osteen issued his ruling in this case and in Fisher-Borne below, and an injunction ordering NC to not enforce the state ban on marriage.
  • 6 November 2014, Intervenor-Defendants Thom Tillis, North Carolina Speaker of the House of Representatives, and Phil Berger, President Pro Tempore of the North Carolina Senate, "on behalf of themselves, and their members and constituents" filed a notice of appeal to the 4th Circuit.  
  • 14 November 2014, the plaintiffs in this case and in Fisher-Borne v. Smith, below, have filed notices of cross-appeal to the 4th Circuit. They appeal the decision to allow Tillis and Berger to intervene in the cases.
  • 5 December 2014, see entry for 5 December in General Synod v. Tillis, first case listed, above. Watch General Synod v. Tillis for updates.

Fisher-Borne v. Smith

Case #: 1:12-cv-00589
Court Level: 4th Circuit Court of Appeals
Date Filed: 13 June 2012
Date of Appeal: 6 November 2014

Description:

  • 13 June 2012, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sued several state judges in federal court on behalf of 6 same-gender couples and their children seeking adoption rights.
  • 12 July 2013, the ACLU amended the suit to add a demand that the plaintiffs are entitled to marriage.
  • 20 December 2013, Republican lawmakers engaged free legal help from Alliance Defending Freedom, an anti-LGBT law firm, to defend the state’s constitutional ban on same-gender civil marriage.
  • Defendants’ motion to dismiss was fully briefed as of 14 November 2013.
  • 9 April 2014, the plaintiffs filed a motion for a preliminary injunction.
  • 28 April 2014, the Response was filed.
  • Briefing was ordered to address whether consideration of the motion should be stayed pending 4th Circuit’s decision in Virginia’s Bostic.
  • 11 April 2014, the defendants filed a motion to stay the proceedings.
  • 5 May 2014, the plaintiffs filed their consolidated memorandum of law in support of their motion for preliminary injunction and opposition to the defendants’ motion for a stay.
  • 22 May 2014, the defendant’s filed their reply.
  • 2 June 2014, Magistrate Judge Peake recommended that the stay be granted pending the 4th Circuit's decision in Bostic v. Schaefer.
  • 13 June 2014, the plaintiffs filed their objections to the magistrate’s ruling.
  • 30 June 2014, the defendants filed their responses to the plaintiffs’ objections.
  • 28 July 2014, NC Attorney General Roy Cooper said he will stop defending the ban on marriage equality in NC per the Bostic ruling.
  • 30 July 2014, in light of the 4th Circuit ruling in Bostic, the court ordered the parties in this case and in Gerber v. Cooper (above) to supplement their positions as to how the cases should proceed. The identical order was issued in both cases.
  • 27 August 2014, the judge ordered the case stayed until the Supreme Court lifts the stay in the Virginia marriage case, Bostic. This effectively stays the case until SCOTUS either rules on one of the marriages cases or decides it won't be taking up the issue (the latter highly unlikely).
  • 22 September 2014, plaintiffs ask the Court to lift the stays and allow the district court cases to proceed.
  • 6 October 2014, the Court relieved parties of the requirement that parties inform the Court of any action in the 4th Circuit (Bostic) cert petitions, noting the 6 October 2014 SCOTUS order (pg 39), but asked for a status report to address specific points listed in the order, including whether the 4th Circuit ruling in the Virginia case leaves any additional issues unresolved in this case.
  • 7 October 2014, the plaintiffs filed their status report; the same day, the state defendants filed their status report.
  • 8 October 2014, the judge has issued an order that now lets this case move forward to a conclusion. 
  • 8 October 2014, the defendants filed their answer ( in reference to this amended complaint).
  • 9 October 2014, the Court issued an order asking for clarification from the parties as to specifics of an anticipated injunction - due today by 5:00pm.
  • 9 October 2014, plaintiffs' response to the order. State defendants' response.
  • 9 October 2014, Thom Tillis, North Carolina Speaker of the House of Representatives, and Phil Berger, President Pro Tempore of the North Carolina Senate, on behalf of themselves, and their members and constituents, filed a Motion to InterveneMemo in Support of Motion.
  • 9 October 2014, the legislators requested an 8-day extension to prepare; Judge Osteen denied that request and gave the  intervenors until 12 noon on 10 October 2014 to file their completed motion. 
  • 10 October 2014, Proposed Intervenors filed the supplement to their motion to intervene (answers and defenses) in response to October 9th court order.
  • 10 October 2014, the Proposed Intervenors filed a Request for Oral Argument.
  • 10 October 2014, Judge Osteen ordered additional briefs from the parties and denied the request for oral argument. Parities' briefs are due by Monday 13 October 2014, but can be filed earlier and "no reply will be permitted unless ordered by this court."
  • 13 October 2014, the plaintiffs filed their response to Judge Osteen's order re: GOP intervention, as did the Attorney General.
  • 14 October 2014, Judge Osteen permited legislators' intervention but "only for the purpose of lodging an objection and preserving that objection to this court’s application of Bostic."
  • 14 October 2014, Judge Osteen in this issued his ruling in this case and in Gerber above, and an injunction ordering NC to not enforce the state ban on marriage.
  • 6 November 2014, Intervenor-Defendants Thom Tillis, North Carolina Speaker of the House of Representatives, and Phil Berger, President Pro Tempore of the North Carolina Senate, "on behalf of themselves, and their members and constituents" filed a notice of appeal to the 4th Circuit
  • 14 November 2014, the plaintiffs in this case and in Gerber v. Cooper, above, have filed notices of cross-appeal to the 4th Circuit. They appeal the decision to allow Tillis and Berger to intervene in the cases. 
  • 5 December 2014, see entry for 5 December in General Synod v. Tillis, first case listed, above. Watch General Synod v. Tillis for updates.
  • 14 January 2015, as promised, North Carolina legislators have taken their appeal in the marriage case to the U.S. Supreme Court, via Berger v. Fisher-Borne (Supreme Court appeal in North Carolina marriage case). Continue to watch General Synod v. Tillis (first case listed above) for updates.

Lawsuits - Resolved

McCrory & Clark v North Carolina

Case #: 1:2014cv00065
Date Filed: 10 March 2014
Ruling Date: 10 October 2014

Description:

Ballot Initiatives - Pending

None.

Ballot Initiatives - Passed

North Carolina Amendment 1

Purpose of Ballot Measure: North Carolina Amendment 1 (often referred to as simply “Amendment 1”) was a legislatively referred constitutional amendment in North Carolina that proposed to amend the North Carolina Constitution that makes it unconstitutional for the state to recognize or perform same-sex marriages or civil unions. The amendment does not prohibit domestic partnerships. (A case of overkill - state law already defined marriage as being between a man and a woman prior to this amendment.)

Date Passed: 8 May 2012, 2012, North Carolina voters approved the amendment, 61.04% to 38.96%, with a voter turnout of 34.66%.

Polls

  • 17 September 2014, results released from an American Insights poll found registered voters in the state think voters and not judges should decide the issue of same-sex marriage, and a majority oppose Attorney General Roy Cooper’s decision not to defend the constitutional amendment banning marriage equality, which voters approved in 2012. Registered voters were evenly split at 46 percent on gay marriage. Likely voters oppose it by a 4-point margin. News Source
  • 15 September 2014, for the first time, more North Carolinians said they support same-sex marriage than those who opposed it, in an Elon University poll. The poll showed of 1,078 North Carolina residents, 45% said they support marriage equality and 42% said they oppose it, but the poll's margin of error is plus or minus three percent. News Source
  • A May 2014 Elon University Poll survey found that 41% of North Carolina residents supported same-sex marriage, while 46% opposed it, and 13% didn't know/had no opinion. Poll Details
  • An April 2014 Public Policy Polling survey found that 40% of North Carolina voters thought that same-sex marriage should be legal, while 53% thought it should be illegal and 7% were not sure. A separate question on the same survey found that 62% of North Carolina voters supported the legal recognition of same-sex couples, with 36% supporting same-sex marriage, 26% supporting civil unions but not marriage, 34% favoring no legal recognition and 4% not sure. Poll Details