Same-sex marriage

Supreme Court Extends Same-Sex Marriage Across U.S.

SCOTUS_Gay_Marriage_Rally_0428WASHINGTON—The Supreme Court has declared that same-sex couples have a right to marry anywhere in the United States.

Gay and lesbian couples already can marry in 36 states and the District of Columbia. The court’s ruling on Friday means the remaining 14 states, in the South and Midwest, will have to stop enforcing their bans on same-sex marriage.

The outcome is the culmination of two decades of Supreme Court litigation over marriage, and gay rights generally.

Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority opinion, just as he did in the court’s previous three major gay rights cases dating back to 1996.

President Obama Tweeted that gay marriage ruling “is a big step in our march toward equality”.

• Read the court’s full opinion here

NC House Overrides Governor’s Veto of Same-Sex Marriage Opt-Out

magistrate_vetoRALEIGH—The legislature has overridden a veto of bill aimed at allowing magistrates to opt-out of performing marriages.

The state House quickly took up the measure on Thursday morning. The veto override has sat on the House calendar for over a week now as Republican leaders worked to make sure they had the votes needed to override the governor’s veto of this bill.

The vote ended up being 69 to 41 in favor of the override—enough to meet the three-fifths requirement.

Gov. Pat McCrory released the following statement in response:

“It’s a disappointing day for the rule of law and the process of passing legislation in North Carolina. I will continue to stand up for conservative principles that respect and obey the oath of office for public officials across our state and nation. While some people inside the beltline are focusing on symbolic issues, I remain focused on the issues that are going to have the greatest impact on the next generation such as creating jobs, building roads, strengthening education and improving our quality of life.”

The House called the bill up as its first calendar item for the day and immediately made a procedural maneuver that stops debate on a vote other than from the majority and minority leaders. In his last ditch effort to stop the override from occurring, the minority leader said he believes the governor’s veto of the bill was appropriate.

“We should not be in the business of sanctioning people lying to the government and to the citizens of the state by taking the sacred oath and then willy nilly deciding at their convenience that they will not uphold that oath to the citizen of North Carolina,” said Minority Leader Rep. Larry Hall.

The Senate previously overrode this veto.

With limited debate, attempts were made to argue against Senate Bill Two during points of personal privilege at the end of the floor session. Democrats expressed concern that they were not given an opportunity to speak out against Senate Bill Two during the override vote. However they did get a chance after session had adjourned for the day.

“We would like to apologize to all lesbian and gay couples because love is not different than anyone else’s love in this state. And we’re sorry on behalf of the state of North Carolina,” said Rep. Cecil Brockman, a Guilford County Democrat.

Sarah Preston, acting Executive Director of the ACLU of North Carolina, released the following statement:

“This is a sad day for North Carolina that history will not judge kindly. Just eight months after our state extended the freedom to marry to same-sex couples, extremist lawmakers have passed discrimination into law, allowing government officials to deny marriage services to virtually any couple. This shameful backlash against equality will make it harder for all couples in our state to marry and force many to spend what is supposed to be a happy day trapped in a maze of government offices. We encourage any North Carolina couples who encounter new hurdles because of this discriminatory law to contact our office.”

Tami Fitzgerald, Executive Director of the NC Values Coalition, released this following statement:

“It’s hard to believe that any governor – much less a conservative one – would veto a bill protecting the religious freedoms of his constituents. The House and the Senate made the right call in overriding Governor McCrory’s ill-advised veto and we are grateful for their continued leadership in fighting to preserve this fundamental American freedom.”

Governor to Veto Same-Sex Marriage Opt Out Bill

SameSexMarriageRALEIGH — The state House gave final approval Thursday to an opt-out bill that allows magistrates to decline to perform any marriages, and the governor released a statement saying that he would veto the legislation.

After a federal appeals court overturned North Carolina’s ban on same-sex marriage last year, the Administrative Office of the Courts directed magistrates to perform marriages for same-sex couples or face disciplinary action.

Bill supporters say it creates a reasonable accommodation for public officials who feel performing a same-sex marriage is against their religious beliefs. But opponents say the bill is discriminatory and unconstitutional.

“That’s all this bill does. It applies the principles of Title VII and the principles of the government Employees Rights Act to a particular circumstance that we have here. I wish the bill wasn’t necessary. It is necessary. I encourage you to vote for it,” said Rep. Paul Stam, Wake County.

Both sides says it’s not the end if same sex couples want to get married. The bill has a provision saying a judge or another magistrate must be available to perform the marriage. State laws also allow an ordained minister or another recognized-religious figure to do the same.

“If a gay couple goes and asked to be married in front of this magistrate, are they being protected equally under the constitution when they are not getting treated the same as when a straight couple goes and tries to get married in front of a magistrate here in the state of North Carolina? That is the opposite of equal protection,” said Rep. Nathan Baskerville, Granville Co.

Statement from Gov. McCrory on Senate Bill 2:

“I recognize that for many North Carolinians, including myself, opinions on same-sex marriage come from sincerely held religious beliefs that marriage is between a man and a woman. However, we are a nation and a state of laws. Whether it is the president, governor, mayor, a law enforcement officer, or magistrate, no public official who voluntarily swears to support and defend the Constitution and to discharge all duties of their office should be exempt from upholding that oath; therefore, I will veto Senate Bill 2.”

The governor has 10 days to officially veto the bill. The question then becomes if there will be enough votes from state lawmakers to override his veto.

Exemption for NC Government Officials on Gay Marriage Approved

gay_marriageRALEIGH—A bill that would allow magistrates to opt-out of performing same-sex marriages now heads to Gov. Pat McCrory’s desk.

The NC House gave final approval to the measure Thursday morning.

This comes after a federal court ruling reversed North Carolina law which banned same-sex marriage. Under the proposal, a magistrate would have to cite a sincere religious objection, and then be banned from performing any marriages.

Opponents say the measure essentially creates discrimination, but supporters say government workers should not have to be fired for their religious beliefs.


Gay Marriage Religious Objections Bill Back Before NC House

gay_marriageRALEIGH—A bill aimed at allowing magistrates to opt out of performing same-sex marriages is back up for consideration at the legislature.

This was one of the first proposals to be introduced and voted on the state Senate this year. The legislation that states magistrates can opt out of performing all marriages if they have a religious objection to it. The proposal comes after a federal court ruling made same-sex marriage legal in North Carolina, and some magistrates were forced to resign rather than perform these marriages.

Once the bill got to the House, it has not been a top priority. It was heard in committee back in March, but no votes were ever taken.

Bill sponsors say it does not discriminate against same-sex couples because if a magistrate does not want to perform a marriage for them then the magistrate then cannot perform any marriages. Some argue there is nothing in the bill to stop magistrates from refusing to marry bi-racial or multi-faith couples.

– Loretta Boniti

Poll Shows 63 Percent of NC Voters Disagree with ‘Religious Freedom’ Law

religious_freedom1ELON — A newly-released poll shows a majority of North Carolina voters don’t think businesses should be allowed to deny service to gays and lesbians because of religious beliefs.

The latest Elon University survey reported 63 percent of voters would disagree with a “religious freedom” law that would make such denials possible.

The figures come even as a coalition of residents rallied in Raleigh on Tuesday, urging lawmakers to pass the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” that’s been proposed in the General Assembly.

“Overall though, I think the national results and our poll show that this makes a lot of people uncomfortable: the ability to sort of reflect back on your religious beliefs to be able to discriminate on providing services to individuals,” said Prof. Kenneth Fernandez, director of Elon University Poll.

The poll had about a 3-and-a-half percent margin of error.

– Amara Omeokwe

Justice Kennedy Has Tough Questions for Both Sides in Gay Marriage Case

350px-Supreme_Court_US_2010WASHINGTON—With demonstrators on both sides of the issue making themselves heard outside, the Supreme Court has heard arguments on whether same-sex couples should have the right to marry.

The U.S. Supreme Court heard two-and-a-half hours of oral arguments Tuesday in a case that could change the lives of gay couples across the country.

At issue are two questions:
1. Do gay couples have the constitutional right to marry?
2. Do states have to recognize lawful marriages from other states?

Justice Anthony Kennedy, whose vote could decide the issue, was the author of the court’s three earlier rulings supporting gay rights. He spoke of the principles that guided those decisions.

But he also worried aloud about changing the definition of marriage from the union of a man and a woman.

“It’s very difficult for the Court to say, ‘Oh well, we know better.’,” said Kennedy.

Depending on how the court rules, same-sex couples will be able to marry in all 50 states, or gay marriage bans could be reinstituted in many of the states where they’ve been struck down. That includes North Carolina. A federal judge struck down the state’s gay marriage ban last October.

Chief Justice John Roberts directed questions to both sides that made it hard to predict where he will come down. Roberts said gay couples seeking to marry aren’t trying to join the institution of marriage, they’re trying to “change what the institution is.”

“Our Constitution does guarantee each individual equal protection and due process and equal dignity under the law,” said plaintiffs’ attorney Mary Bonauto.

A decision in the case is expected by July.

– Geoff Bennett

NC Leaders Weigh In on National Debate Over Religious Freedom Legislation

religious_freedom1RALEIGH—North Carolina leaders are now weighing in on the national debate the over religious freedom legislation.

The proposal was recently signed into law in Indiana and similar legislation has been filed in North Carolina. The nation has watched as protesters, business leaders and others have weighed in on that state’s new religious freedom law.

In North Carolina, people are waiting and watching to see what will be done with bills recently filed in both the House and Senate that have similar goals.

“This bill isn’t exactly like Indiana, but apparently Indiana is now back peddling or modifying the bill that they passed. So apparently this is still unsettled waters. I think the last thing we need to do is rush into anything,” said Rep. Tim Moore, Speaker of the House.

Moore said there are certainly members in the Republican 74-member caucus who want the religious freedom bill on the fast track. But he said that won’t happen in his chamber.

“This issue is certainly worthy of discussion, but its going to take some time. There is not going  to be a rush to simply push this bill through. I know there is some who wanted to rush to have a committee hearing on the bill this week, and that very simply is not going to happen,” said Moore.

The idea of a religious freedom bill started at the federal level decades ago. Due to court opinions, states have also been passing their own versions of the bill. Senate leadership says for now, they are still deciding what to do with North Carolina’s proposal.

“There are 20 plus state that have passed similar legislation. The federal government has a bill that was signed by Bill Clinton that does the same thing. We haven’t done it in North Carolina. If it comes up, we’ll take a look at it, and make some decisions,” said President Pro-Tem Sen. Phil Berger.

Indiana’s law has sparked controversy, because opponents say it allows discrimination—such as a businesses right to deny service to a same-sex couple. Governor Pat McCory said he is not sure why a law like this is needed.

“I’m always trying to find what was the problem we’re trying to correct—on both the transgender bathroom issue that the Democrats brought up in Charlotte and some of my Republicans are bringing up in Raleigh regarding the freedom of religion. What is the problem they are trying to solve and I haven’t see it up to this point,” said Gov. McCrory.

For Rep. Moore, he said he has been talking with CEO’s this week and this is definitely a topic of discussion. He said he believes there needs to be careful consideration before things move forward.

“My thought is that the high priorities we have right now are about job creation, improving our roads and improving education. I want to find out how this bill accomplishes those objectives,” said Moore.

Neither the House or Senate versions of the bill have been scheduled for a committee hearing at this point.

– Loretta Boniti

Apple CEO, Gov. McCrory Call Out NC Religious Freedom Proposal

640x320_Legislative_Building_NCCHARLOTTE—A proposed law in the North Carolina legislature is picking up national attention after being called out by Apple CEO Tim Cook for potentially fueling discrimination against LGBT community members.

The bill is short– just two pages.

It says the government can’t force someone to do something against their religious beliefs.

“Well, Jason and I, we were fired by HGTV precisely for our beliefs,” said David Benham.

He and his brother, both outspoken Christians, were fired last year from a reality TV show on the network.

Bill sponsors say cases like the Benham Brothers, or cases against wedding professionals denying service to same-sex couples are a type of discrimination becoming too common.

However, the brothers say they support HGTV’s right to fire them because they believe in the network’s rights to hold their own beliefs.

They say this bill speaks to that.

“It creates a shield, not a sword. It simply empowers business owners like us to prevent government overreach,” said Benham.

Sarah Preston, policy director with the ACLU North Carolina, disagrees.

“The act essentially allows people to ignore the existing laws under the guise of religious freedom,” she said.

Apple CEO Tim Cook called out North Carolina’s proposal in a Washington Post op-ed Sunday. Apple has a data center in Maiden, North Carolina.

Cook says such laws hurt jobs and development.

He was talking about a bill signed in Indiana last week, and companies are backing off investments or speaking out, including the NCAA.

Duke University says they “share the NCAA’s concerns” and they’ll be vigilant on their Final Four trip to Indiana.

Gov. McCrory is already speaking out against the bill, saying on WFAE Monday the it doesn’t make sense, and he doesn’t see the problem the bill is trying to correct.

“People really, I think, understand that this is ultimately about discrimination, and they don’t want to invest in states that will allow discrimination,” said Preston.

“It’s a very limited protection, and it’s not a guarantee. It’s just the ability to defend yourself in court,” said Chris Stone founder of Faith Driven Consumer, a Christian business advocacy group.

Religious and conservative groups like Faith Driven Consumer say claims of discrimination against LGBT groups are overblown.

“If I am the owner of a restaurant and a gay couple comes in, I can’t deny you service, because there’s no religious foundation for that,” he said.

They point out it follows a nearly identical federal law passed in 1993.

One of the bill’s sponsors says the bill was only just filed last week. He anticipates some debate, and probably additions to the bill to make sure it doesn’t promote discrimination against LGBT community members.

– Andrew Sorensen

Religious Objection to NC Gay Marriage Leads to Bill Debate

gay_marriageRALEIGH–The state House is quickly taking up Senate legislation giving North Carolina magistrates and other judicial workers the ability to refuse to carry out duties for same-sex marriages due to their religious objections.

A House judiciary committee scheduled debate Wednesday on the measure, which cleared the Senate last week. Senate leader Phil Berger filed the bill in response to a local magistrate quitting his job rather than presiding after federal judges struck down North Carolina’s same-sex marriage ban in October.

The proposal would prevent a magistrate or assistant or deputy register of deeds from performing duties for all marriages for at least six months.

Opponents of the exemption say public officials can’t pick and choose which duties they’ll execute and consider it thinly-veiled discrimination.