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.



Gay marriage 3In a one-sentence order and without dissent, the U.S. Supreme Court late yesterday denied a request by a Kentucky county clerk for a stay of orders requiring her to perform marriages as part of her job duties, pending her appeal on the merits to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The Rowan County Clerk, Kim Davis, stopped issuing any marriage licenses shortly after the high court’s decision in Obergfell v. Hodges in order to avoid doing so for same-sex couples — which she said would violate her religious beliefs.

A federal district court judge in Kentucky, David L. Bunning, ruled that Davis either had to start issuing marriage licenses to all couples or resign, and the Sixth Circuit refused to block that order while it considered the underlying merits of her appeal, saying that it found “little or no likelihood that the clerk in her official capacity [would] prevail” on those merits.

As SCOTUSblog’s Lyle Denniston noted yesterday, the request “mark[ed] the first time that the Court has been asked to take any action on the spreading resistance, based on religious opposition, to the June 26 ruling opening marriage rights to same-sex couples.”

State lawmakers here codified that right to refuse based upon religious objection this session when it enacted the magistrate’s refusal bill, Senate Bill 2 — over a veto by Gov. Pat McCrory.

Justice Elena Kagan, who handles emergency filings from the Sixth Circuit. referred the request to the full court, which then issued the order.

Read the Kentucky clerk’s full application in Davis v. Miller here.


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?


Today, on the 48th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s landmark decision striking down state laws banning interracial marriage in the case of Loving v. Virginia, condemnations continue to pour in from across the country for North Carolina’s absurd and offensive new marriage discrimination law. Here are just a few:

From Raleigh’s News & Observer:

“Senate leader Phil Berger, the champion of the measure, says it protects the religious freedom of public servants who have religious objections to same-sex marriage. But this is not about protecting religion. It is about respecting the law. With this vote, the majority has scoffed at it….

In its defiant rejection of that message, the General Assembly once more raises that flag of intolerance over North Carolina as it did when it approved an amendment to the state Constitution banning same-sex marriage. That flag is seen nationwide. It will be another signal of the state’s rightward turn and another reason why businesses and people will less inclined to make a new home in North Carolina. Even if Democrats reclaimed the General Assembly, it would be years before the state’s image could heal from the battering this current legislative leadership is giving it.”

From the Greensboro News & Record:

“Now the state will have to live with the consequences of a law that is not only discriminatory but, as the governor labeled it, unconstitutional. It will draw yet more legal challenges. This legislature is costing taxpayers many millions of dollars in lawyers’ fees and losing one court ruling after another. This will be one more….In the meantime, North Carolina makes itself known across the country for enacting a law that says some people can expect less service than others in state offices. It’s a shame. Having enough votes doesn’t put the legislature in the right.”

From the New Yorker magazine:

“Proposals to let magistrates withhold marriage licenses have the same problems, with the added insult that the discrimination is effectively coming from the state. If officials can decide not to implement laws they dislike, then equality under the law—for gay couples, at least —is just a slogan.”

From the Orange County, California Register:

“SB2 violates civil rights and insults human dignity. As did anti-miscegenation laws, it would violate constitutional guarantees of due process and equal protection of the law. United States v. Windsor, in which the high court in 2013 struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act, affirmed that ‘state laws defining or regulating marriage, of course, must respect the constitutional rights of persons.’”

The bottom line: North Carolina is once again the butt of jokes and derision around the country and the world and the Raleigh reign of error continues.