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Gay marriage 3Same-sex couple are marrying tonight in the Old North State. And what a marvelous triumph it is for the forces of love, tolerance and progress over those of hate, discrimination and backwardness. Hallelujah!

It’s also a moment in which it’s hard not to take note of the fact that with this momentous change, a prediction of one of the chief architects and defenders of the old, discriminatory law, North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis, came true — just a little early.

As you will recall it was in the spring of 2012 — just weeks before Amendment One was passed by voters during a primary election and while he was campaigning for it — that House Speaker Tillis predicted the Amendment’s ultimate demise:

“If it passes, I think it will be repealed within 20 years,” Tillis said.

As it turned out the repeal came in just 29 months and Tillis, who always seemed weirdly unconvincing in his support of the Amendment (perhaps even as he was cynically trying to stand in the courthouse door to block same-sex couples from gaining equality this week) is left to consider the ruins of one of his signature “accomplishments” as a state leader.

In a way, it’s seems somewhat fitting that things happened this way and at this moment in time in the state’s political history. A long, dark era in state history came crashing down today. Perhaps it will be just the start of several dramatic turnarounds for the state as supporters of change and modernity finally take note of their own power and move rapidly to send the purveyors of fear and reaction into forced retirement.

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Mike Meno of the ACLU of North Carolina issued the following statement in response to the announcement this morning by the U.S. Supreme Court that would not take up the appeals of various circuit court decisions upholding marriage equality:

U.S. Supreme Court today announced it would not review appeals court rulings in seven states, including one from Virginia by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, striking down state bans on marriage for same-sex couples. The decision means that all of those rulings stand, and the states in their jurisdiction must comply with the law and recognize the freedom to marry for same-sex couples.

North Carolina is one of five states in the Fourth Circuit. The Supreme Court’s announcement means that all states in the Fourth Circuit, including North Carolina, are bound by the Fourth Circuit’s ruling that struck down Virginia’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples.

“The Supreme Court’s decision means that the freedom to marry for same-sex couples must be recognized here in North Carolina without delay,” said Chris Brook, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of North Carolina. “We are asking the district court here in North Carolina to immediately issue a ruling striking down North Carolina’s unconstitutional and discriminatory ban on marriage for same-sex couples. Every day that gay and lesbian couples in North Carolina are denied the ability to marry the person they love places their families and children in legal and financial jeopardy. The time has come to end this unfair treatment once and for all and to let our American values of freedom and equality apply to all couples.”

The ACLU and ACLU of North Carolina Legal Foundation have filed two federal lawsuits challenging North Carolina’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples, both in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina in Greensboro. The first, Fisher-Borne, et al., v. Smith, was filed in July 2013 as an amended complaint to a 2012 lawsuit challenging North Carolina’s ban on second parent adoptions on behalf of six families across the state headed by same-sex couples. On April 9, 2014, the ACLU filed a second federal lawsuit, Gerber and Berlin, et al., v. Cooper, on behalf of three married, same-sex couples seeking state recognition of their marriages. Because of the serious medical condition of one member of each couple, the Gerber plaintiffs are asking the court to take swift action.

The ACLU has asked the judge in those cases to quickly overturn North Carolina’s marriage ban in light of a July ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit that found Virginia’s similar marriage ban unconstitutional.

To date, the ACLU has legal challenges to marriage bans pending in 13 states.

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Lennie and Pearl

Lennie Gerber and Pearl Berlin — Photo credit: ACLU of North Carolina

Michael Biesecker of AP has a wonderfully heartwarming story this morning that’s available in several news outlets about one of the couples leading the legal fight for marriage equality in North Carolina. Pearl Berlin and Lennie Gerber have been together for 48 years and the notion that they might taste victory in the near future as Pearl battles health problems is a very cheering notion.

(As an aside, it should also be pointed out that, in addition to being a plaintiff in the legal challenge to North Carolina’s marriage discrimination amendment, Gerber (on the left) was once one of North Carolina’s finest consumer rights attorneys — she managed the Winston-Salem legal aid office for years and helped save countless people of modest income from various financial predators.)

All that said, it should also be noted that when marriage equality does come, the fight for justice will be far from over. As a our panelists eloquently explained at last week’s Crucial Conversation luncheon on the subject (watch the video here), LGBT North Carolinians can still be summarily fired by their employers because of who they are.  In other words, if same sex couples get the chance to be married in the near future, many will still have to remain in the closet for fear that placing their wedding photo on their desk at work will still get them fired.

And rest assured, even if the courts soon order marriage equality, Paul Stam and the other theocrats in the General Assembly will be doing their utmost to prevent passage of a law banning discrimination in the workplace and/or public accommodations. In other words, there’s a heck of a lot of work still to do.

 

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At yesterday’s NC Policy Watch Crucial Conversation luncheon on the future of marriage equality, Chris Brook, the Legal Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina, made it pretty clear what he intends to argue in federal court when he next gets the opportunity in the organization’s challenges to North Carolina’s marriage discrimination law. Brook said he’s going to point to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond (the precedents of which apply to North Carolina), show the judge that court’s decision in the recent Bostic v. Schaefer case and then just sit down.

It’s an obvious strategy — namely, that the ruling striking down Virginia’s discrimination law in Bostic is right on point and there really isn’t much that a North Carolina federal judge can do but abide by it.

This is why Attorney General Cooper made his recent announcement that he would stop wasting North Carolina taxpayers’ money by trying to defend North Carolina’s indefensible law.  It would be a futile and costly gesture — not unlike attempting to defend a law that banned interracial marriage.

Of course, as Sharon McCloskey’s story immediately below makes plain, this patently obvious logic is apparently lost on Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger and House Speaker Thom Tillis who are, quite remarkably (if one of Berger’s members is to be believed), taking steps to impeach Cooper over his utterly reasonable, constitutional and ethically-bound decision.

By all indications, Berger and Tillis simply want Cooper to tilt at the Bostic windmill and manufacture insipid, sure-fire-loser arguments as is being tried in a few other states. Today, we got a good idea of what some of those arguments would look like when the folks at ThinkProgress published a handy list of The 10 Craziest Arguments Two States Are Using to Defeat Marriage Equality.” This is from the post: Read More

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Southern EqaulityIf there’s a more significant positive policy change looming on the horizon in North Carolina than the potential near-term arrival of marriage equality, it’s hard to say what that would be.

So, when might it happen? What has to happen first?

Don’t miss the chance to learn the answers to these and other similar questions at tomorrow’s very special Crucial Conversation luncheon in Raleigh:

The freedom to marry in North Carolina: Now what?

Featuring Chris Brook, Legal Director of the ACLU of North Carolina Legal Foundation; Jen Jones, Director of Communications and Outreach at Equality North Carolina; and plaintiffs in the court challenge to North Carolina’s marriage discrimination amendment.

When: Thursday, August 7, at noon — Box lunches will be available at 11:45 a.m.

Where: Center for Community Leadership Training Room at the Junior League of Raleigh Building, 711 Hillsborough St. (At the corner of Hillsborough and St. Mary’s streets)

Cost: $10, admission includes a box lunch.

Click here for more information and to register.

Questions?? Contact Rob Schofield at 919-861-2065 or rob@ncpolicywatch.com

- See more at: http://www.ncpolicywatch.com/2014/07/31/crucial-conversation-the-freedom-to-marry-in-north-carolina-now-what/#sthash.VSz7C8sO.dpuf