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North Carolina Magistrates Ordered to Perform Marriages for Gay Couples or Face Removal

Randy Jackson and Eddie Locklear

With same-sex marriage legal following a federal judge's ruling last week overturning North Carolina's ban on gay marriage, magistrates in the state have been ordered to perform marriages for same-sex couples or face suspension or dismissal from their state jobs.

The Associated Press reports:

A memo to state magistrates Wednesday said they would be violating their oaths of office if they refuse to marry gay or lesbian couples. The directive came after a magistrate in Pasquotank County on Monday refused to marry two men, citing religious objections.

That magistrate, Gary Littleton, will not be reappointed when his term expires in December due to an unrelated charge of assault a year ago. 

In other North Carolina news, a federal judge on Tuesday granted Republican state legislators the ability to intervene in lawsuits challenging the state's gay marriage ban. 

WRAL reports:

That leaves the door open for a potential appeal of the ruling. However, constitutional and family law experts agree an appeal is unlikely to succeed. The court to which any North Carolina appeal would go would be the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the same court that ruled Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional.


Gay North Carolina Couple Weds After First Being Denied Based On Magistrate's Religious Beliefs

NCMarriage

On Monday, Randy Jackson and Eddie Locklear of Elizabeth City, North Carolina attempted to make their partnership official after thirty-one years. The state's same-sex marriage ban, Amendment One, had been struck down and their request should have been respected. However, once at the courthouse they were turned away by a magistrate who claimed he could (or would) not marry them based on his religious beliefs. It was a disheartening turn of events, to be sure, and one that will likely have to be negotiated a great deal in certain states. Jackson and Locklear's story, at least, has a happy ending.

The Virginian Pilot reports:

Today, the couple finally tied the knot at the Pasquotank County courthouse.

A different magistrate, Lee Custis, presided over their civil wedding today, saying he was religious, but he had to follow the law.

He improvised slightly when he asked them if they would take each other's hand in marriage.

"Do you take this man to be your partner?" Custis asked.

After the short ceremony, both men were left emotional and amazed.

“It’s been a long time coming,” Jackson said. “It’s hard to put it in words. I didn’t think I’d live to see this.”

Congratulations to Randy and Eddie!

In related news, Joe Jervis over at Joe. My. God. has called out the Virginian Pilot on a shoddy poll asking, "Should magistrates be allowed to refuse to perform same-sex marriages based on religious grounds?" The poll, according to Joe, was up, then deleted, then back again with the "no" votes erased; the current standings are 94% yes, 6% no, and the paper tweeted at Joe saying that "All votes were deleted" when the poll malfunctioned. Poorly designed polling system, or a purposeful skew of data? What do you think?

Photo credit: Jeff Hampton of The Virginian Pilot.


North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory Says He'll Now Defend Gay Marriage

MccroryNorth Carolina Governor Pat McCrory (R) has stated that he fully supports gays’ rights to marry following U.S. District Court Judge Mac Cogburn Jr.’s decision that overturned the state's same sex marriage ban. Speaking to the Carolina Connection, the Governor admitted that while accepting gay marriage would require a fair amount of cultural evolution for North Carolina, his job as a public official was to uphold the court’s ruling.

“I think it's a time for healing on all sides,” he said. “Now that the disagreement has been resolved in the courts, it's our job to live together and work together and play together and respect each other together.”

McCrory’s election to the governor’s seat in 2012 marked the first time that the Republican party controlled both North Carolina’s senate and its general assembly since 1870. His tenure in office thus far has been marked by a number of classically conservative initiatives such as cutting unemployment benefits, opting out of Obamacare, and repealing the state’s Racial Justice Act. Most recently McCrory made headlines after the US Attorney’s Office launched an investigation into his administration’s potential involvement in settling environmental lawsuits on behalf Duke Energy.


Federal Judge Strikes Down North Carolina's Gay Marriage Ban, Licenses Being Issued Now

North carolina

A federal judge has struck down North Carolina's ban on same-sex marriage, The News & Observer reports:

U.S. District Judge Max Cogburn issued the historic ruling at 5:32 p.m.

It came less than an hour after U.S. District Judge William Osteen entered an order late Friday afternoon postponing decisions in two challenges before him until next week.

At least one county, Buncombe, is already issuing licenses to eager same-sex couples.

Here's the ruling via Equality Case Files


Federal Judge Denies Delay in North Carolina Gay Marriage Case, Arguments Due Noon Today

North carolina

A federal judge has denied a motion late Thursday from lawyers for North Carolina GOP lawmakers asking for a delay in the challenge to the state's gay marriage ban.

Phil Berger [below left], president pro tem of the state Senate, and Thom Tillis [below right], speaker of the state House (joined by California lawyer and NOM chariman John C. Eastman) failed in their efforts to secure the delay, The News & Observer reports:

Berger_tillisU.S. District Judge William Osteen gave the legislators until noon Friday to submit their fleshed out legal arguments and denied a request for extra time to review documents.

In an order submitted by Osteen late Thursday, the judge said the legislators had not persuaded him of their need for extra time.

The legislators, Osteen said, "allege that additional time is required to 'investigate the files and conduct appropriate research in order to adequately prepare the pleading.' "

Osteen said he was aware that only a short time had passed since the Supreme Court decision, but "these cases have been pending for a lengthy period of time and the defendants have been clear in their position" that what happened in Virginia could determine what happened in North Carolina.

Back in July, North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper announced he would no longer defend the state's gay marriage ban in court following the 4th Circuit ruling overturning Virginia's gay marriage ban. 

UPDATE: 


Federal Judge Lifts Stay On Two Same-Sex Marriage Cases In North Carolina, Expected To Issue Ruling Soon

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Federal Judge William Osteen has lifted stays on two lawsuits brought against the state of North Carolina by the ACLU arguing that the state's ban on same-sex marriage (passed in 2012) is unconstitutional. Representatives from the ACLU said they expect Judge Osteen to rule on those case swiftly. WNCN reports:

Mike Meno, a spokesman for the ACLU of North Carolina, told WNCN that Osteen asked for a motion from the ACLU on the gay marriage issue. Meno said the ACLU expects Osteen to rule that gay North Carolinians may marry as soon as late Wednesday afternoon or Thursday.

Federal courts generally close at 5 p.m., so Meno said the ACLU lawyers were working urgently to get a motion to the court in Greensboro.

The Wake County Register of Deeds' office said the county will not be issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples Wednesday.

On Monday the ACLU asked Judge Osteen to quickly strike down the state's ban on same-sex marriage after the Supreme Court refused to hear a case challenging the 4th Circuit's ruling which found the ban to be discriminatory and unconstitutional.


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