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Gay marriage 2There are two articles worth reading in Raleigh’s News & Observer this morning about Tuesday’s anti-gay speak-out by some conservative pastors.

Chris Sgro of Equality NC is on the editorial page with this excellent post in which he responds to a list of absurd claims. For example:

‘(Marriage equality) is not a trend of the people but a trend of the courts.’ – Dr. Mark Harris, former U.S. Senate candidate and Charlotte pastor

Actually, it’s both. Not only have there been 24 consecutive victories for the freedom to marry since June 2013, but support for marriage equality throughout the nation and North Carolina has never been higher. For example, at the time of Amendment One’s passage in May 2012, 53 percent of North Carolinians supported civil unions and marriage. That number had risen to 63 percent eight months later.

“Courts have put themselves above Almighty God.”

– the Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League of North Carolina, Inc.

The judges who have ruled on the cases affecting marriage equality have been at every level – from federal to state courts. They are Republican-appointees, Democrat-appointees, liberal and conservative. Regardless of ideology or past ruling history, each of these judges has upheld that same-sex marriage should be legal. It is a constitutional, American, common-sense issue.

Many people of faith support same-sex marriage. There is no “lock” on what religious North Carolinians believe about same-sex marriage. That is why many faith leaders have joined the United Church of Christ and our friends at Campaign for Southern Equality in a suit to protect their religious right to conduct same-sex marriages.

Meanwhile, columnist Barry Saunders takes one of the most outspoken hate purveyors — the Rev. Patrick Wooden — to task in this essay entitled “Rev, let’s quit worrying about gay marriage and focus on real issues.”

To which all a body can say is “Amen.”

Patrick WoodenIt comes from the notorious all-purpose far right minister, the Rev. Patrick Wooden of Raleigh’s Upper Room Church of God in Christ. At a pastor’s anti-marriage equality event today near the state Capitol Building, Wooden said the following according to this AP story:

Seventy-eight percent of our children are born into homes where there are no dads. We have a disaster going on. In fact, if we encourage marriage, we won’t need as many government handouts.

Thanks for that brilliant insight, Rev. Pat. I’ll be sure to explain that to my LGBT friends who’ve adopted all kinds of unwanted children from troubled single moms and given them a chance at happy lives.

love is loveAs this post on SCOTUSblog reminds us, same-sex marriage cases are now pending in five federal appeals courts, including one in the Fourth Circuit, Bostic v. Schaefer, which was argued in Richmond in May.

How the three-judge panel will rule in Bostic, which deals with Virginia’s same sex marriage law, is not clear cut, according to court-watchers.  From the argument, Judge Roger L. Gregory is apparently leaning toward opposing the ban, with Judge  Paul V. Niemeyer supporting the ban and Judge Henry F. Floyd wavering in the middle.

A ruling in that case, though, may be binding on similar cases in North Carolina, including Fisher-Borne v. Smith and Gerber v. Cooper, both pending in federal court in Winston-Salem,  General Synod v. Cooper, pending in federal court in Charlotte, and McCrory v. North Carolina, pending in federal court in Asheville.

For that reason, magistrate judges in three of the cases have stayed proceedings until a decision is rendered in Bostic and are considering a stay in the fourth (General Synod).

But plaintiffs in Fisher-Borne and Gerber are not waiting patiently for that ruling, saying they have waited long enough. In each of those cases, certain plaintiffs have asked the court to block enforcement of the state’s ban so that their marriages can be recognized and the couples can gain the rights afforded other married couples.

For example, in Fisher-Borne, a couple with a son who has cerebral palsy are unable to get the medical care he needs because state law does not recognize the partner with more comprehensive health insurance as his parent.

In Gerber, plaintiffs with serious illnesses in advanced stages have spouses and in one case a child who will be unable to receive benefits typically afforded spouses and children should those plaintiffs die.

As they argue in their brief to the court:

While this case is stalled, Ms. Mejia cannot establish a legal relationship with her son. Each day, J.G.-M. misses out on the benefits that would be conferred to him as Ms. Mejia‘s legal child, and each Plaintiff continues to suffer from the stigma and indignities that result from the North Carolina‘ ban on same-sex marriage. The need for recognition of their marriages is all the more pressing in light of Plaintiffs‘ circumstances. Dr. Berlin is 89 years old and suffers from complex seizures and blood clots that cannot be treated. Ms. Blackburn is 66 years old and has Stage IV cancer. Ms. Mejia, a war veteran, suffers from cancer and currently lives with significant lung damage and a replacement liver that requires her to take immunosuppressive drugs. In light of their ages and medical conditions, Dr. Berlin, Ms. Gerber, and Ms. Mejia each have a substantial fear that she might pass away before her marriage is recognized by North Carolina, depriving her forever of the dignity and social recognition that state recognition affords. If Ms. Mejia passes away, J.G.-M. would also be deprived of the important benefits that flow to children, particularly to children of veterans, by virtue of legal parentage. Each Plaintiff also fears—based on experience—that her right to care for her spouse in medical emergencies will be denied because North Carolina refuses to recognize their marriage.

 

Southern EqaulityA federal judge in Pennsylvania ruled today that the state’s law banning same-sex marriage is unconstitutional, bringing the number of state marriage amendments overturned in the federal courts this past year to twelve, according to this report by Think Progress. “We are a better people than what these laws represent, and it is time to discard them into the ash heap of history,” U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III wrote in Whitewood v. Wolf. Jones added:

The issue we resolve today is a divisive one. Some of our citizens are made deeply uncomfortable by the notion of same-sex marriage. However, that same-sex marriage causes discomfort in some does not make its prohibition constitutional. Nor can past tradition trump the bedrock constitutional guarantees.

Read the full opinion here.

Southern EqaulityBreaking new ground in the battle against state bans on same-sex marriage, clergy from several denominations across the state joined with six same-sex couples today in filing a lawsuit in federal court in Charlotte, challenging the constitutionality of marriage laws in North Carolina on both First and Fourteenth Amendment grounds.

In General Synod of the United Church of Christ vs. Cooper, the same-sex couples are seeking the freedom to marry and the clergy are seeking the religious freedom to perform wedding ceremonies for such couples.

According to the Campaign for Southern Equality, the case is the first of its kind of the 66 marriage equality cases pending in courts nationally to challenge marriage bans on 1st Amendment religious freedom grounds.

“In addition to bringing 14th Amendment claims under equal protection and due process, this lawsuit introduces a 1st Amendment claim that the marriage ban in North Carolina violates the right to the free exercise of religious beliefs by denominations, clergy, and congregants who believe that same-sex marriages are theologically valid and want to perform marriage ceremonies,”  Jake Sussman, a partner at Tin Fulton Walker & Owen and lead counsel in the case said in a statement released by the organization.

In papers also filed today, the couples and the members of the clergy are asking the court to block enforcement of the state bans on same-sex marriage and the performance of same-sex marriage ceremonies pending a resolution of the case — which they say is likely to end in their favor.

“In recent months, nine district courts have struck down restrictions on same-sex marriage, including courts in Michigan, Tennessee, Texas, Illinois, Virginia, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Ohio, and Utah,” they argue in those papers. “No courts have upheld such a ban.”

The case joins two other actions filed by the American Civil Liberties Union in federal courts here challenging the ban on same-sex marriage and asking the court to block its enforcement pending resolution of the claims asserted.

In Gerber v. Cooper, three same-sex couples married elsewhere are seeking state recognition of their marriages and have asked the court to block enforcement of the North Carolina ban pending resolution of their case because of the serious medical condition of one member of each couple.

And in Fisher-Borne v. Smith, couples who originally filed their case as a challenge to the state’s ban on second parent adoption but then later added a challenge to the ban on same-sex marriage are seeking similar preliminary relief.  A young child of one of the plaintiff couples there is being denied critical medical care because North Carolina neither recognizes his mothers’ marriage nor allows both mothers to adopt their child and establish a legal relationship.