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ACLU marriage equality

Image: ACLU of North Carolina

Court decisions have been coming in a fast and furious fashion in recent days — so fast that many may be left scratching their heads by Judge Osteen’s ruling yesterday on marriage equality.

If you’re one of the thousands who’s saying to him or herself this morning something like “What the heck? I though Judge Cogburn settled this last week,” the good folks at the ACLU of North Carolina issued a statement late yesterday that explains the deal:

Second Federal Judge Rules N.C. Marriage Ban Unconstitutional

GREENSBORO – U.S. District Judge William Osteen today ruled that North Carolina’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples is unconstitutional. He is the second federal judge to do so in five days. The ruling came in two lawsuits brought by the American Civil Liberties Union and ACLU of North Carolina Legal Foundation.

On Friday, U.S. District Judge Max Cogburn issued a separate ruling that struck down North Carolina’s marriage ban and added North Carolina to the list of states to extend the freedom to marry to same-sex couples. Judge Osteen, who was appointed to the federal bench by President George W. Bush, also gave North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis and Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger the ability to intervene in the case on appeal.

“Judge Osteen’s ruling is the second in five days to declare North Carolina’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples to be unconstitutional,” said Chris Brook, Legal Director for the ACLU of North Carolina. “This second ruling further emphasizes that North Carolina’s now-defunct marriage ban was discriminatory and denied same-sex couples their constitutional rights to due process and equal protection under the law. The legislature can attempt to pursue an appeal if they so choose; however, that would only unnecessarily expend taxpayer resources. North Carolinians can rest assured: the freedom to marry is here to stay.”

Background:

The ACLU filed the first legal challenge to North Carolina’s marriage ban in June 2013 when it amended a 2012 lawsuit seeking second parent adoption rights for six families headed by same-sex couples. The adoption lawsuit, Fisher-Borne, et al. v. Smith, was originally filed in June 2012, just weeks after passage of the state’s marriage ban, known as Amendment One, which the ACLU lobbied and campaigned against. In April 2014, the ACLU filed a second lawsuit, Gerber and Berlin, et al. v. Smith, challenging North Carolina’s marriage ban on behalf of three married same-sex couples, one member of which has a serious medical condition.

Commentary

The national nonprofit news site Pro Publica has a lead story out of North Carolina this morning about Baker Mitchell — the arch-conservative political operative who runs a chain of charter schools. This is the lead from the story, which is also front-paged this morning on Raleigh’s News & Observer:

“Baker Mitchell is a politically connected North Carolina businessman who celebrates the power of the free market. Every year, millions of public education dollars flow through Mitchell’s chain of four nonprofit charter schools to for-profit companies he controls.”

The story goes on to explain in great detail (much of it previously reported on NC Policy Watch) about how Mitchell has figured out a way to merge his right-wing political views with a skill for making boatloads of money at the public trough.

All in all, it is another powerful indictment of how the originally benign phenomenon of charter schools has been largely captured by the far right and money grubbers and thereby corrupted and perverted.

Read the entire story by clicking here.

Commentary

Conspiracy kooksThe folks over on Right-wing Avenue — yeah, you know, the supposedly nonpartisan 501(c)(3) organizations that have been acting as virtual auxiliaries of the campaign of one of the two main U.S. Senate candidates in recent weeks — have a lot of troubling friends and allies on the fringe.

Take, for instance the website “Triad Conservative” (to which one can link directly from the Locke Foundation’s “Piedmont Publius” blog). This is from an article that appeared on the site over the weekend entitled “Time to Entertain Secession?”:

“Matthew Staver of Liberty Counsel argues that we are witnessing the end of Western Civilization.  He is essentially correct.  Western Civilization over the last two millenia has been intrinsically Christian.  Our national government is now post-Christian, post-modern and indeed anti-Christian.  And Greensboro’s own Kay Hagan has been at the forefront of this change.

The United States is no longer a fundamentally good country.”

The post concludes this way:

Read More

News

New from the N.C. State Health Plan website’s “newsroom”:

Eligibility Update Regarding Friday’s Ruling on Same Sex Marriages

A federal court has overturned North Carolina’s law regarding same gender marriage, recognizing same sex marriages as legal in North Carolina. This ruling now makes same sex spouses of State Health Plan members eligible for State Health Plan coverage.

This ruling is considered a qualifying life event and eligible spouses will have 30 days to add their spouse. A marriage certificate will be necessary to verify the spouse is an eligible member. The effective date of coverage will be November 1, 2014.

Beyond this initial 30 days, marriage is a qualifying life event and members will have 30 days to add a spouse to their health plan coverage.

Please see your Health Benefits Representative for assistance in enrolling an eligible spouse.

Commentary

State Fair cartoonAs has been reported in several places, North Carolina Superior Court Judge Donald Stephens upheld the common sense ban on hidden, loaded handguns at the State Fair yesterday. According to Judge Stephens:

“It would be unwise and imprudent to allow firearms into the State Fair.”

Amen to that. Stephens ruling makes eminent sense for a variety of reasons — the risk of accidents on rides, the enormous, shoulder-to-shoulder crowds on the Midway and the already more-than-adequate presence of law enforcement officials, just to name three.

The decision also figures to be popular with the public. When I went on the conservative Bill LuMaye radio show last Friday to discuss the issue, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that most callers — even self-described concealed carry licensees — thought the Fair an inappropriate venue for firearms.

One thing that the controversy does point out however is this: the law cited by the gun advocates in their lawsuit IS vague. That it even exists in its present form is a testament to the recklessness of the General Assembly and Gov. McCrory in approving it.

Let’s hope that in 2015, legislative leaders and the Guv own up to their mistake in approving the legislation and call for an amendment to specifically ban all hidden weapons at the Fair and other similar venues.