Add another $45,000 to the tab that legislative leaders ran up in attorneys fees and costs chasing their same-sex marriage opposition in the courts,  even in the face of rulings rejecting marriage bans as unconstitutional.

In addition to the fees and costs incurred by the leaders’ own attorneys, taxpayers will now also be on the hook for those additional dollars — a fee award which court fillings this week show the leaders agreed to as as a result of their involvement as intervenors in those cases.

The award goes to the Amendment One challengers as the prevailing parties to a successful civil rights claim under 42 U.S.C. 1983.

Then Speaker Thom Tillis and Senate President Phil Berger jumped into the cases in October 2014 after the federal appeals court in Richmond laid down the law in the circuit, holding in the Virginia case, Bostic v. Rainey, that state bans on same sex marriage were unconstitutional.

Just hours after that Bostic ruling in July 2014, Attorney General Roy Cooper indicated that his office would no longer defend North Carolina’s ban, saying that it was time “to stop making arguments we will lose.”

And on October 6, 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court refuse to review Bostic, making the appeals court ruling the governing law in North Carolina.

Despite those clear signals from the appeals and Supreme Courts, the self-professed fiscal conservatives took up the torch on October 9, when they asked U.S. District Judge William Osteen to allow them to intervene in the two challenges pending before him.

Osteen declared Amendment One unconstitutional pursuant to the Bostic decision on October 14, 2014, but then granted the leaders’ intervention request for purposes of appeal.

They then pursued that appeal until the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in late June, 2015 in Obegefell v. Hodges that marriage bans across the country were unconstitutional.

The cost for that fruitless appeal was $56, 476, but the challengers have agreed to accept $44,501.36.

They are also separately seeking nearly $255,000 from the state for fees and costs incurred as a result of its defense of Amendment One.



An editorial in this morning’s edition of Raleigh’s News & Observer rightfully blasts the outrageous and illegal actions of Rowan County, Kentucky Clerk Kim Davis and the preposterous behavior of the presidential candidates who’ve beaten a path to her jail cell and microphone stand:

“While Davis’ action may make her a champion in some circles, she was violating the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that in effect legalized gay marriage in all states. And though she presents herself as a symbol of religious conviction, public officials do not take the oath of office and accept their public salaries (in her case, $80,000) with the option of not doing their duty. Davis is entitled to invoke her conscience and her Bible in refusing to carry out duties she believes go against her beliefs. She can do so by resigning.

But neither her state nor her country gives such officials the right to pick and choose which laws they’ll enforce. Law enforcement officers, judges and elected officials have to act in accordance with the law. Their personal beliefs can’t trump their sworn duty.

Davis’ post is an elected one, so she’ll likely not be turned out of office. But a federal judge warned her that she was not to interfere with the legal licensing process again. He should stand firmly behind that warning.”

It’s as simple as that.


The U.S. Supreme Court has made it clear that states can no longer block same-sex couples from getting married, but the ruling does not prevent some North Carolina magistrates from refusing to perform marriages under Senate Bill 2.

SB2, that became law last month after legislators overrode Gov. McCrory’s veto, allows for magistrates to opt out of performing all marriages for a period of six months, if they have a sincerely held religious objection.

The News & Observer reports that 14 of the state’s 672 magistrates have recused themselves from performing this duty:

That represents about 2 percent of the state’s magistrates. AOC spokeswoman Sharon Gladwell declined to identify the counties where the recused magistrates work. She said the recusals are a confidential personnel matter, and that providing the county-specific information would allow for identification of recused magistrates.

In register of deeds offices, five of 100 counties across the state have had employees opt out of issuing and processing marriage licenses, according to the N.C. Association of Registers of Deeds.

Sarah Preston lobbied against the bill as director of the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina. She said the recusals represent “a pretty small number.”

“I think that indicates that this was really a non-issue,” Preston said Tuesday. “The legislature made this a bigger deal than it needs to be.”

What’s next in the battle for marriage equality? Listen to Chris Fitzsimon’s recent radio interview with the ACLU-NC Legal Director Chris Brook.

You can hear the full interview here, or click below to hear Brook discuss the
Obergefell decision and “lived equality.”

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While equality advocates are universally celebrating today’s U.S. Supreme Court decision, critics have issued mixed responses.

Not surprisingly, Equality NC hailed the decision:

“Chris Sgro, Equality NC’s executive director, called this ‘a historic day’ for the United States and the state of North Carolina.’Today’s ruling granting loving, same-sex couples the freedom to marry across our United States is a historic moment for our country, and for tens of thousands of same-sex families who call our state home,’ said Sgro. ‘With it, gays and lesbians in every corner of the United States will finally be able to marry the person they love. Today, love won and we celebrate all who have worked tirelessly over many decades to change hearts and minds and make this ruling a possibility.’

Sgro added, ‘Even as we celebrate, we know our progress does not and will not end at the Supreme Court. Same-sex couples can legally marry in North Carolina—and the very same day, be denied public services, fired from their job or denied housing simply because of who they are. With these harsh realities in mind, Equality NC remains committed to fighting for full equality for LGBT North Carolinians wherever they work or live.’”

And this is from the ACLU:

“‘The Supreme Court today welcomed same-sex couples fully into the American family. Gay and lesbian couples and our families may be at peace knowing that our simple request to be treated like everyone else – that is, to be able to participate in the dignity of marriage – has finally been granted,’ said James Esseks, director of the ACLU’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and HIV Project. ‘Today’s historic victory comes on the backs of same-sex couples and advocates who have worked for decades to dismantle harmful stereotypes and unjust laws in the quest for equal treatment.’

The court’s 5-4 opinion holds that state marriage bans violate the due process and equal protection provisions of the U.S. Constitution. Recognizing that ‘marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death,’ the Court held that the Constitution grants to same-sex couples the right to “equal dignity in the eyes of the law.”

‘Today’s decision has been 50 years in the making and will stand with Brown vs. Board of Education as one of the landmark civil rights moments of our time,’ said Anthony D. Romero, ACLU Executive Director. ‘Now we take the battle for full legal equality to the states, where 31 states have yet to pass any statewide LGBT non-discrimination laws. The wind is at our backs, and we are now on the cusp of achieving full legal equality for LGBT Americans across the country.'”

North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger offered somewhat muted criticism:

“The majority of North Carolina voters who define marriage as between one man and one woman deserved a final resolution from the Supreme Court. while this decision is disappointing, we respect the ruling and will continue to work to ensure North Carolina complies with the law of the land.”

Meanwhile conservative social warriors were scathing in their reaction.  Read More

Charlotte Observer editorial page editor Taylor Batten.

Charlotte Observer editorial page editor Taylor Batten.

Now that North Carolina has made it state law that magistrates and registers of deeds can get out of doing parts of their sworn duties due to “sincere religious beliefs,” Charlotte Observer editorial page editor Taylor Batten has a long list of duties he would like to be excused from in his job.

For instance, he’s no longer going to write editorials on Mondays, which he considers a holy day for recovery from the weekend or Fridays, which he needs to recover from the week.

Batten’s column may be intended to make light of the law before the courts get around to striking it down as absurdly unconstitutional, but it does make a very important point: If North Carolina  is really going to head down this road, it could quite easily and quickly find itself on a very slippery slope.

One friend of NC Policy Watch suggests that sheriffs who have a religious objection to killing might reasonably might refuse to issue any handgun permits.

Hmmm — maybe there is something to this idea.

What part of your job would you like to be excused from due to “religious belief?