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Dan ForestNorth Carolina’s Lieutenant Governor Dan Forest appears to be emerging as the most visible and outspoken opponent of LGBT equality in North Carolina. Forest, who has long been closely associated with the religious hard right, issued a formal statement over the weekend in which he castigated the decision of U.S. District Court Judge Max Cogburn striking down North Carolina’s marriage discrimination law as a case of “an unelected federal judge violat[ing] the foundational principles of this great nation.”

Forest’s statement goes on to give voice to some of the extreme, anti-federal government language that should be familiar to those who have studied the efforts of the mid-20th Century “state’s rights” movement and that has, in more recent times, come to be associated with fringe Tea Party groups that question the basic legitimacy of the present-day federal government:

“The courts have essentially stated that a man ‘marrying’ another man, or a woman another woman, is rooted in our nation’s traditions and history, inferring that states have no interest in the preservation of marriage as an exclusive union between a man and a woman. This strains credulity.

Our people will either submit themselves fully to a federal oligarchy of unelected judges or stand up and proclaim that federalism is alive and well. I hope that you will join me in standing against judicial tyranny, and fight to restore the balance of power intended in the Constitution of the United States.”

Meanwhile, Gov. Pat McCrory issued a statement that said the following:

“The administration is moving forward with the execution of the court’s ruling and will continue to do so unless otherwise notified by the courts. Each agency will work through the implications of the court’s ruling regarding its operations.”
News

After last night’s historic ruling legalizing same-sex marriages in North Carolina, one county register of deeds says the McCrory administration unnecessarily delayed releasing gender-neutral marriage license forms.

Wake Register of Deeds Laura Riddick (photo from Riddick's office)

Wake Register of Deeds Laura Riddick (Photo from Riddick’s office)

Laura Riddick, a Republican first elected to county office in 1996, released a statement Friday saying that the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services refused her earlier requests for a copy of an existing gender-neural marriage license. DHHS is led by Aldona Wos, a Greensboro physician and wealthy Republican fundraiser appointed by Gov. Pat McCrory in January 2013.

Riddick kept her office open until after 9 p.m. Friday evening to issue marriage licenses after U.S. District Court Judge Max Cogburn Jr.’s order at around 5:30 p.m. that night declaring North Carolina’s ban on gay marriages unconstitutional.

Some of the first legal gay couples to marry in the state did outside Riddick’s office, including Wake County Sheriff Department employees Chad Briggs and Chris Creech who exchanged their vows as local news stations broadcast the union on live television.

Riddick, along with other Registers of Deeds across the state, hoped to have her department’s computer systems updated and ready when the expected federal court order legalizing same-sex marriages came down. (Click here for background on issue.)

DHHS withholding the form was “neither justified nor professional,” Riddick said in a statement.

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Commentary

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.

Commentary

It’s frequently the case with last-ditch efforts in politics that the groups or individuals trying to stave off the final chapter in an inevitable drama — the classic example would be the last days of a corrupt regime like, say, Richard Nixon’s — are forced to turn to a rather motley cast characters for support. Think about it: when the handwriting is on the wall and there’s dirty work to be done in order to cling to power or to fan the dying embers of a discredited belief system, one can usually expect some troubled (and troubling) souls to emerge looking for their brief 15 minutes of fame.

And so it is in North Carolina right now with the last-ditch efforts of state House Speaker Thom Tillis and Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger to block marriage equality in the face of an irresistible tide of court rulings. Faced with abandonment by responsible mainstream lawyers and advocates, Tillis and Berger have scraped the bottom of the barrel by turning to the rabidly anti-gay haters at a group that calls itself the National Organization for Marriage.

As the good people at the Human Rights Campaign explain here, NOM is an ironically-named outfit whose real goal is to marginalize LGBT people throughout modern society. Moreover, John Eastman, the NOM lawyer who slithered into handle the dirty job is a champion hater. This is from a Human Rights Campaign profile:

Eastman has a history of speaking out against homosexuality, and not just marriage equality. Back in 2003, Eastman pushed a very anti-LGBT/pro-”ex-gay” column penned by noted extremist Scott Lively (Google “Scott Lively” and “Uganda” and prepare to be mind-blown). In 2000, Eastman positioned homosexuality as, along with abortion, one of the twentieth centuries’ “twin relics of barbarism.” In that same year, he referred to gay-straight alliances as “incubators of moral relativism.”  He also defended the Boy Scouts’ gay-exclusionary practices in court, applauding the organization for standing against the “currently fashionable view that homosexual conduct is just another legitimate lifestyle choice.

The Southern Poverty Law Center has more on this scurrilous group and some of the people behind it here.

Commentary
George Wallace attempts to block the integration of the University of Alabama - Source: Wikipedia

George Wallace attempts to block the integration of the University of Alabama – Photo: Wikipedia

If you haven’t already done so, be sure to check out today’s Fitzsimon File in which Chris explains the current state of the debate over marriage equality in North Carolina. The quick takeaways:

#1 – There is cause for joy and celebration that the end of this particular form of discrimination is finally coming to a richly-deserved end.

#2- That said, there is a very long way to go in a state in which LGBT people can still be summarily fired for who they are.

#3- Today’s last-ditch effort by Senate leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Thom Tillis to block the inevitable is eerily reminiscent of George Wallace’s infamous effort to block the integration of the University of Alabama by standing in the “schoolhouse door.”

As Chris writes: Read More