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Senate Leader Says Cooper Should Defend Amendment

RALEIGH — State Senate leader Phil Berger says Attorney General Roy Cooper should defend North Carolina’s same sex marriage ban in the wake of a federal appeals court ruling striking down Virginia’s law.

The Rockingham Republican said after the Senate session on Monday that Cooper should stand up for the people of North Carolina and uphold its constitution.

More than 60 percent of voters approved the amendment in 2012.

Cooper said at a news conference earlier in the day that his office would not defend the state’s ban on same sex marriage, saying the ruling by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, made it highly likely North Carolina’s ban will be overturned.

North Carolina is part of the 4th Circuit.


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.


Chilton Elected Register Of Deeds

The race for Register of Deeds is not one that usually draws much attention or competition in Orange County, but Mark Chilton’s campaign promise to sign same-sex marriage licenses galvanized voters in the May primary. Still, Chilton, who is a real estate lawyer, stressed that marriage equality was only one facet of his campaign.

“It’s important to me, and I hope to the voters, to understand that same-sex marriage is how I am running, but it is not why I am running,” said Chilton.

He pledged to make the office’s website easier to use and to offer Spanish-language services.

Chilton won with 42.53 percent of the vote, narrowly beating out incumbent Deborah Brooks, who garnered 39.05 percent. Only 547 votes separated the two, but Chilton was able to break the 40 percent threshold to prevent a run-off. The third-place finisher, Sara Stephens, trailed with 18.42 percent.

During the campaign Chilton defended his controversial stance, saying that North Carolina’s ban on same-sex marriage and civil unions is “clearly contrary” to the federal Constitution, especially in the context of recent Supreme Court and lower-court decisions.

But he acknowledged there is a chance he could face a misdemeanor charge or be removed from office.

“Yes, is it possible that a misdemeanor charge could be lodged against me, there’s an arguable case, I suppose, but I believe ultimately I’ll be found not guilty,” said Chilton

Chilton faces no Republican candidates in the general election, meaning he’ll likely take office in December.


Chilton: “I’ll Sign Same-Sex Marriage Licenses”

Former Carrboro mayor Mark Chilton confirmed today that if he’s elected as Orange County Register of Deeds, he will sign same-sex marriage licenses, in defiance of the North Carolina state constitution.

Listen to Chilton’s conversation with WCHL’s Aaron Keck.

Listen here.

In a statement on Facebook, Chilton said that his primary duty as an elected official is to uphold the U.S. Constitution above any state or local statutes that may contradict it – and that North Carolina’s ban on same-sex marriage and civil unions is “clearly contrary” to the federal Constitution, especially in the context of recent Supreme Court and lower-court decisions. (The Supreme Court has not yet weighed in directly on the question of whether the U.S. Constitution guarantees same-sex couples the right to marry, but lower courts in recent months have struck down state-level bans in Virginia, Texas, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Ohio, and Utah, all on constitutional grounds.)

Prior to today, Chilton had declined to say whether or not he’d issue same-sex marriage licenses – saying he preferred to focus on his other qualifications for the job, including an extensive background in real estate. But in an earlier interview, he told WCHL that he would give precedence to the U.S. Constitution above all other laws in his role in the office. “To my way of thinking,” he said last week, “the number one responsibility of all elected officials in North Carolina is to uphold the federal Constitution, above and beyond all other purported laws or constitutions.”

Chilton is one of three candidates for the position; the other two are former deputy Register of Deeds Sara Stephens and current incumbent Deborah B. Brooks. All three are Democrats, so the winner of the Democratic primary on May 6 will be the presumptive winner in the November general election. (Neither Brooks nor Stephens have weighed in definitively yet on the same-sex marriage issue, but Stephens told WCHL, “As Register, I feel it would be my responsibility to take actions within my power to ensure that our office is a friendly and welcoming place to all people.” Brooks has not issued same-sex marriage licenses in her tenure as Register of Deeds.)

Chilton’s full statement is below:

I’ll sign same sex marriage licenses if I am elected Orange County Register of Deeds.

I wasn’t really trying to talk about this issue at first in the Chilton for Register of Deeds race, because my campaign and qualifications for the office run much deeper. But the media keeps asking, so let me say it loud and clear: “Amendment One” is clearly contrary to the United States Constitution.

The Supreme Court’s decision in the Windsor case last year does not answer every remaining question about same sex marriage, but when read in the context of Roemer v. Evans, Perry v. Arnold Schwarzenegger etc., no one can seriously believe that that portion of our state constitution complies with the United States Constitution.

Some will no doubt argue that it is somehow not within the power of a county Register of Deeds to make decisions about the constitutionality of such matters. But let me remind them that the oath of office for all elected officials in North Carolina calls upon the officials to support and maintain the Constitution and laws of the United States, and the Constitution and laws of the State of North Carolina not inconsistent therewith. This oath means three important things in this context:

1. The United States Constitution is the supreme law of the land and no act, statute, ordinance, state constitution, public school rule, city parking ordinance or any other rule or act of any level of government in this country may operate in derogation of the Constitution of the United States of America. That is, we support and maintain the state constitution but only to the extent that it is consistent with the Federal constitution.

2. Because it is a part of the oath of office for all elected officials in North Carolina, it is clear that we all understand that there will continually be moments where an elected official must interpret and apply the United States Constitution – drawing out the distinction between the state and federal constitution actually goes to the very heart of the oath of office.

3. Thus, it is not merely within the power of the Orange County Register of Deeds to interpret the constitutionality of Amendment One, it is the obligation and solemn duty of the Register of Deeds to do so.

In light of all of the above, if I am elected Register of Deeds of Orange County, I will not enforce the federally unconstitutional parts of the North Carolina state statutes and constitutional provisions which purport to prohibit the issuance of same sex marriage certificates.



Same-Sex Couples Plan To Register Licenses In NC

CHARLOTTE – Same-sex couples legally married in other states are being encouraged to start registering their documents in North Carolina courthouses.

It’s all part of a new statewide campaign by the Campaign for Southern Equality to draw attention to North Carolina’s ban on gay marriage.

The group says by creating a public record of their relationships, same-sex couples will highlight the reality that they are legally married in the eyes of the federal government, but not North Carolina.

The group’s executive director, the Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, says registering marriage licenses will create a public record that demonstrates the couples’ love and commitment.

The call comes one week after Buncombe County Register of Deeds Drew Reisinger became one of the first officials in the South to take marriage license applications from same-sex couples.


NM County Told To Issue Same-Sex Marriage Licenses

Courtesy of Getty Images

ALBUQUERQUE – The clerk for New Mexico’s most populous county planned to begin issuing marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples today after a state district judge declared same-sex marriage legal.

State District Judge Alan Malott on Monday ruled New Mexico’s constitution prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, ordering BernalilloCounty to join the state’s other two population centers in recognizing the unions.

The decision comes on the heels of an order last week from a judge in Santa Fe that directed the county clerk there to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. That followed a decision by the clerk in the southern New Mexicocounty of Dona Ana to recognize same-sex couples.

But Malott’s ruling was seen as more sweeping than the temporary Santa Fe order because he directly declared that gay marriage was legal.


Gay Marriage Now Legal In MN, RI, And DC

Courtesy of Getty Images

MINNEAPOLIS – Marriage ceremonies started at midnight for gay couples in Minnesota, where same-sex marriage is now legal.

Minnesota officials estimate that about 5,000 gay couples will marry in the first year of the new law.

Laws legalizing same-sex marriage also took effect today in Rhode Island and the District of Columbia.


ACLU To Challenge NC Gay Marriage Ban

Courtesy of Getty Images

DURHAM – Six same-sex North Carolina couples are speaking out not only against the state’s ban on gay marriage, but also on the rights for their children.  According to a WRAL report, the American Civil Liberties Union says it will amend a federal law suit filed last year on behalf of those six couples where one partner wanted to adopt the other’s child.

The ACLU says it plans to launch a challenge to North Carolina’s ban on gay marriage, a ban solidified by an amendment to the state constitution that passed last year that prohibits the legal recognition of unions between same-sex couples.

The ACLU argues that marriage would provide same-sex couples a number of benefits for their children, including health insurance coverage if one parent lacks it, the permission of either parent to make medical decisions or to be by a child’s bedside if hospitalized, and the prevention from children being torn away from their home if something should happen to the biologically or legally recognized parent.

One of the couples in the 2012 lawsuit, Marcie and Chantelle Fisher-Borne, were legally married in Washington, D.C. in 2011 and currently live in Durham.  The couple has two children, a five-year-old girl and a one-year-old boy, each carried by one of the two women.  When their daughter was born, the couple met resistance from a hospital staff member who demanded their legal paperwork—the ACLU argues that encounters like this could be avoided if they were legally married in NC.

WCHL spoke with Chantelle to hear about how NC’s ban affects her family as well as other North Carolina families.

“Having marriage rights for same-sex couples is the best way to provide the safety net for our families, those of us who have kids,” she says.

Chantelle says having the original adoption rights case expand to include the ban on same-sex marriage is an important step, especially given the recent decision of the Supreme Court to declare DOMA unconstitutional.

“(With) lots of changes happening around the conversation of marriage rights, it was the perfect opportunity considering the changes in the laws,” Chantelle says.

And ultimately, Chantelle says she wants the same rights as any other parent who gave birth and raised a child.

“It directly affects any same-sex couple in North Carolina and many states across the US.  Being a legal stranger to your kid who you’ve raised since they were born is disconcerting to say the least, and something we want to change,” says Chantelle.


Good Use of our Money?

     I am a bit confused about something and I’m going to share my perplexity with you.  
     Let’s just say there’s already a law against something.  Let’s also say money is tight.  Schools need money, social programs need money (because more people need social programs)… I think we can all agree there’s just not enough money to go around these days.  
     Can we also agree that special legislative sessions cost money?  I’ve read it’s about $50,000/day.  I don’t know how much it costs to put a constitutional amendment before voters but it probably isn’t $0.  
     So, therein lies my confusion: North Carolina already bans same-sex marriage so why spend money we clearly don’t have to put that ban in the constitution?  I don’t understand how it could be made more illegal than it currently is.  Is doubling-down on this “illegality” worth more than aid to Hurricane Irene’s coastal victims?  Is it worth more than limiting which 4-year olds get more education?  Is it worth more than treatment for victims of domestic abuse or the mentally ill?  Some people clearly think so.  
     Well, like it or not the money has been/is being spent and we will all get to decide in May.   
     I have my personal, moral, humanistic code on this question but I write today as a Savvy Spender and so I have to wonder which fiscal conservatives think this is money well spent?  Which proponents of small(er) government are backing this enlarging of an already existing law?
     May I tell you what else I don’t understand?  In a state that has come a long way from a discriminatory past, why don’t our legislators learn from our own history?  There are plenty of people who say it’s a moral issue and, if that’s true for you, that’s your code. But why legislate everyone’s code?   It’s a religious issue for you?  Ok, I respect your faith but didn’t the nation’s founders call for a separation of church and state as they fled religious oppression?  
     There’s just so much I don’t understand.  Here’s another bit:  There’s a whole bunch of people who hate us just for being Americans.  I am an American and I wouldn’t want to be anything else.  I can’t imagine why that’s deserving of hatred and violence.  Suppose the folks behind al-Qaida formed a government and voted that to discriminate against Americans is okay?  While that’s less offensive than killing thousands of us and plotting to kill more, I believe its members would say its part of their moral code.  Isn’t there enough hate in the world that we don’t need more of it?  
As I am truly puzzled by this plan, I would appreciate hearing from someone with a different point of view.  Please leave a comment below or write to me at donnabeth@chapelboro.com It’s an emotionally charged issue so I ask that all notes and comments be courteous.  Disagree and I’m happy to read it but any vitriol will be disregarded.  
     A final and unrelated note:  Last week I wrote about University Mall’s programming and I didn’t touch on specific retailers.  Well, here’s a postscript to that column:  I attended Chapel Hill 2020 this past week and the topic of shopping came up among my small breakout group.  I want to share that there was a rousing cheer for Roses.  That kind of emotional response to a store or a brand is something big corporations pay a lot of money to engender.  What do you think other businesses can learn from this?