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On the first full-day of marriage equality in North Carolina, the Wake County Register of Deeds issued 62 marriage licenses in all – 37 to same sex couples, 25 to opposite sex couples.

Laura Riddick, who kept the Register of Deeds office open until after 9 p.m. Friday evening issuing marriage licenses after U.S. District Court Judge Max Cogburn Jr.  declared North Carolina’s ban on gay marriages unconstitutional, also issued a statement Monday afternoon to those who criticized her actions:

Wake Register of Deeds Laura Riddick

Wake Register of Deeds Laura Riddick

Opponents of same-gender marriage who are unhappy that my office issued marriage licenses in the Wake County Registry after normal business hours Friday in the wake of a historic federal court ruling are either unaware of the full facts, mean-spirited, or both.

I have not advocated for or against same-gender marriage. That is not the proper role of North Carolina’s Registers of Deeds. As I have said many times, we are administrators, not lawmakers or judges.

The touchstones of my work are delivering excellent customer service and following the law at all times. For two years, some proponents of same-gender marriage faulted me for following the
law. Now that the law has changed, some opponents of same-gender marriage are faulting me
for following the law.

Throughout, my position has not changed: Our office follows the law, and we treat all customers
with respect, courtesy, and dignity.

Unlike all but a handful of other Registers of Deeds across North Carolina, I was an involuntary
defendant in the clergy’s federal lawsuit filed in Charlotte. That case, like the two different ones
in Greensboro, was in flux Friday afternoon.

After an emergency conference call with all the parties to the Charlotte case, and with orders also
pending from the judge in the Greensboro cases, I announced that I would close our office at
5:30 unless we received a court order before then. I do not control the actions or the timetables
of federal judges.

At 5:28 p.m., just before we were to close, we received the first of two unexpected orders from
Judge Cogburn in the case in which I was a party. His second order, four minutes later, struck
down the state’s ban on same-gender marriage.

My office was still open; we had not yet closed. More than 100 same-sex marriage applicants of
all ages, and their friends and family members, had camped for two days outside my office door,
expecting a decision by either of the federal judges.

Once the decisive court order came, I could not in good conscience kick those people out and tell
them to come back Monday. I don’t think anyone with a heart would have.

Read Riddick’s full statement here.

News

Democratic U.S. Senator Kay Hagan and Republican challenger Thom Tillis faced off Tuesday night in their second senatorial debate prior to the the Nov. 4 election. Just like their first debate, the two were quickly at odds over education spending. Watch an excerpt of their hour-long debate below:

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To watch the entire debate, click here.

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Tillis_McCrory_Berger-400Monday’s decision by the Supreme Court’s not to review the appeals court rulings striking down state bans on marriage for same-sex couples, has garnered this response from House Speaker Thom Tillis and Senate Leader Phil Berger:

“The people of North Carolina have spoken, and while the Supreme Court has not issued a definitive ruling on the issue of traditional marriage, we are hopeful they will soon,” said Tillis and Berger. “Until then, we will vigorously defend the values of our state and the will of more than 60 percent of North Carolina voters who made it clear that marriage is between one man and one woman.”

In a joint press release issued late Monday afternoon, Tillis and Berger said they intend to formally intervene to defend North Carolina’s constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

Governor Pat McCrory also joined the Republican legislative leaders with this short statement:

“I disagree with the Supreme Court’s decision, which goes against the amendment that North Carolina voters overwhelmingly approved. We will continue to respect the legal process as it proceeds.”

Tillis is likely to face more questions about that decision, when he faces Senator Kay Hagan in their second U.S. Senate debate Tuesday evening.

For more on what’s next for same sex marriage in the state, click here to read Sharon’s McCloskey’s latest blog post.

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Petition delivery

Photo courtesy of Equality NC

Equality NC and the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) delivered over 30,000 petitions to the Charlotte office of U.S. Representative Robert Pittenger (NC-09) Thursday morning.

The petition delivery was in response to Pittenger’s recent town hall remarks in which he told the audience that employers should have the right to fire or refuse to hire gay and transgender workers.

The Charlotte Republican stood by his remarks, saying that Americans are already well-protected by non-discrimination laws.

Here’s how the story was recently reported in the Pittenger’s hometown paper, the Charlotte Observer:

Pittenger stirred up the gay rights debate when he told liberal political blog ThinkProgress this month that governments shouldn’t “impose on the freedoms we enjoy.” Asked his opinion about the Employment Non-Discrimination Act pending in Congress, Pittenger compared adding more laws to protect gays in the workplace to smoking bans – which he said are fine for public places, but he questioned the government role when it comes to private spaces.

North Carolina is among 29 states that lacks statewide workplace protections for LGBT people.

“Congressman Pittenger’s inflammatory remarks represent an opportunity to make clear one simple fact: hardworking gay and transgender people of North Carolina are not “already protected” from workplace discrimination,” said Chris Sgro, executive director of Equality NC. “With these petitions, we bring with us sobering portraits of widespread discrimination faced by gay and transgender people in the workplace.  We not only demand that Pittenger, a former businessman himself, recant his comments, but also join with the majority of North Carolinians and North Carolina business leaders, to ask that he and other politicians act quickly and update state and federal policies to include workplace protections for our gay and transgender friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers.”

Learn more about  the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) here.

 

News

State lawmakers won’t be making any major decisions on Medicaid reform before next year’s long legislative session, but Health and Human Services Secretary Aldona Wos wants to make it clear she opposes any plans that would move Medicaid outside her agency.

Secretary Wos reiterated Wednesday that such a move would sidetrack her agency from the work that has been done over the past 19 months.

“Such a decision would be disruptive. It would divert resources and human capital from the ongoing day- to-day operations of the division,” said Dr. Wos.

Earlier this month, Dr. Wos found herself defending the hiring of outside contractors to assist her agency with reorganization while she promoted plans that “flattened” the structure of the state Medicaid program, which provides healthcare for more than 1.5 million North Carolinians.

Click below to hear part of Wos’ remarks, or watch Wednesday’s full hearing here.
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