“Liberty Rules…And So Does Love”

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court decided not to take action – at least not right now – on the same-sex marriage issue. But that decision actually has major ramifications, nationwide and here in North Carolina, and advocates for same-sex marriage nationwide are rejoicing.

“I was shocked,” said Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt Monday, “but then seconds later, just overjoyed.”

What the Court did on Monday was to deny cert – that is, to decline to review – five lower-court rulings on same-sex marriage. That means those lower-court rulings are allowed to stand. And each of those rulings struck down a different state’s ban on gay marriage – so by not acting on Monday, the Court effectively legalized same-sex marriage in five different states at once.

Those states are Utah, Oklahoma, Indiana, Wisconsin, and Virginia. The Court’s ruling (or non-ruling) Monday means that same-sex marriage is legal, right now, in all five states.

And that has significant implications for North Carolina. The Virginia ruling came down from the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, and North Carolina is in their jurisdiction – which means the Virginia ruling applies to North Carolina as well. There needs to be another court ruling to make that official – but based on the Fourth Circuit’s ruling, our ban on same-sex marriage will be struck down and same-sex marriage will be legal and recognized, perhaps even in a matter of days.

Listen to Mark Kleinschmidt’s conversation with WCHL’s Aaron Keck on Monday afternoon.


“I was as shocked as any Supreme Court watcher was,” says Kleinschmidt, who’s a constitutional attorney and a national advocate for same-sex marriage. Most legal experts assumed that the justices would accept the cases for review, in order to weigh in definitively on the matter. Earlier this summer, though, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said the Court typically wouldn’t hear a case unless there were conflicting rulings from circuit courts – and in this case, every circuit court that’s ruled so far has ruled in favor of same-sex marriage.

There are several circuit courts that haven’t yet weighed in – including the Sixth Circuit, where judges in an oral argument earlier this year seemed more skeptical about the idea that same-sex marriage was constitutionally protected. Monday’s ruling (or non-ruling) doesn’t apply to the states under those courts’ jurisdiction – about 20 states in all. But it does apply to North Carolina, as well as numerous other states – inclding West Virginia, Maryland and South Carolina, which are also under the Fourth Circuit’s jurisdiction.

“There’s a whole lot of celebrating that’s going to go on in North Carolina…and it’s going to happen really big,” says Kleinschmidt. “While marriage is not available on this day at this hour in North Carolina for same-sex couples, it could happen as early as this week…

“Certainly there could be same-sex weddings on Halloween.”

The Fourth Circuit Court’s ruling in Virginia (in a case called Bostic v. Schaefer) doesn’t deal directly with North Carolina, so it will take an additional court ruling to overturn North Carolina’s same-sex marriage ban. But lower courts within the Fourth Circuit are legally bound by the circuit court’s rulings – and while the Bostic case only deals with Virginia’s law, the Fourth Circuit judges declared unequivocally that the “fundamental right to marry” extends to same-sex couples as well as opposite-sex couples.

Read the Fourth Circuit’s ruling in the Bostic case.

Based on that reasoning, it’s a virtual certainty that North Carolina’s ban on same-sex marriage will be overturned. The ACLU of North Carolina has filed a request seeking an immediate ruling to that effect from Chief U.S. District Judge William Osteen, and there are other cases in the legal system as well – including one that Kleinschmidt is working on himself.

“(And) fundamental rights don’t end with just marriage,” Kleinschmidt says, looking forward. “Hopefully we’ll see courts now being able to make sure people don’t get thrown out of their houses and fired from their jobs (for being gay).”

The Supreme Court’s decision not to decide means that the same-sex marriage issue is still not entirely resolved. Another circuit court could still rule the opposite way, and if it does, the Supreme Court may take up the question at a later date.

But for now, proponents of same-sex marriage – like Kleinschmidt – are ecstatic.

“Liberty rules,” he said Monday. “And so does love.”


Court Strikes Down VA Same-Sex Marriage Ban

Nc Attorney General Roy Cooper

Nc Attorney General Roy Cooper

Following the Fourth Circuit Court’s ruling, Cooper announced Monday that North Carolina would no longer be contesting court challenges to Amendment 1.

Monday in Richmond, a three-judge panel on the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage – a ruling that may have significant implications for North Carolina down the road.

In the case of Bostic v. Schaefer, the judges struck down Virginia’s ban by a 2-1 vote, ruling that a ban on same-sex marriage violates the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection and due process under the law. Technically that ruling only applies to Virginia’s law, but the Fourth Circuit also covers North Carolina as well – so lower court judges will use the Fourth Circuit’s opinion as guidance when ruling on North Carolina’s same-sex marriage ban, also known as Amendment 1.

The ruling will not take effect in Virginia for 21 days; it’s likely the judges will issue a stay on the ruling; and it’s almost certain to be appealed to a higher court. Still, Monday’s ruling is significant: it marks only the third time a circuit court has struck down a state’s ban on same-sex marriage. And within hours of the ruling, North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper announced that the state would no longer actively oppose the challenges to Amendment 1 currently making their way through the courts.

Following the ruling, WCHL’s Aaron Keck spoke with Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt, a constitutional lawyer who’s actively involved in one of the ongoing challenges to Amendment 1.

Aaron also spoke with Chris Sgro, the executive director of Equality NC, an organization that’s fighting against the same-sex marriage ban in North Carolina.


Levin JCC Hosts Social Justice Events

Photo of Pearl Berlin and Lennie Gerber

CHAPEL HILL – The Levin Jewish Community Center will host the first new series of community events entitled JCC Conversations Sunday.

Its topic is Love and Equality.  During the event there will be a panel discussion on marriage in NC with Lennie Gerber and Pearl Berlin, Marcie and Chantelle Fisher-Borne, and Lydia Lavelle.  Penny Rich, from the JCC, says that they made this event after hearing about Lennie and Pearl’s 47 years together.

“We thought about it, and we we’re like, wow,” Rich says. “At first, we were kind of joking around, but then it turned into, we should really have some sort of celebration of their life. “We hadn’t had a series yet that they quite fit into, so we actually developed a series around the social justice issue and that’s where JCC Conversations came about.”

Featured outtakes from the documentary film “Living in the Overlap” will be played during the event.  Lennie and Pearl are the subjects of the documentary, which is being entered into the Full Frame festival in the spring.  JCC executive director, Steve Schauder, says that the Jewish community has been progressive about the issue of equal marriage.

“Yeah, I think especially in regards to the Jewish community, every synagogue, the JCC, our Jewish federation, everyone opposed amendment one,” Schauder says. “So from our perspective we really see this as taking the lead and really mobilizing the community around a really critical human rights issue.”

The Pre-Program Reception tickets have sold out, but general admission tickets are still available for $12 and $8 for Levine JCC members.  Penny Rich says that she is excited to have Lydia Lavelle on the panel, and to bring the topic of social justice to the Jewish Community Center.

“We looked at what we want to cover this year, and we did decide that social justice was something that we really wanted to bring to the JCC,” Rich says. “We have a group there now that does a lot of social justice programming, but we didn’t have one specifically that the JCC does.”

Only the first of several events, the JCC Conversations: Love and Equality will be held at their community center on Cornwallis in Durham from 3:00 to 4:30 p.m.

To buy tickets or find out more information on the event click here.