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Senator Richard Burr

Senator Richard Burr

In case you missed it, it’s worth noting that Senator Richard Burr uttered some eminently reasonable words yesterday when pressed for a comment on the judge who struck down North Carolina’s  unconstitutional ban on same-sex marriage, U.S. District Court Judge Max Cogburn of the state Western District. Burr, of course, voted for Cogburn’s confirmation which was unanimously approved.

You can watch the WNCN.com video by clicking here, but here is a transcript:

“We try to put the most qualified individuals on the bench. I have no questions that Max Cogburn met that qualification threshold for me. And…uh…I think it’s once again proof that you can’t…uh..envision every decision that a judge is gonna’ make and that’s why putting folks that have the right experience on the bench is absolutely crucial.”

Dan Forest

Lt. Gov. Dan Forest

In other words, those spewing absurd and incendiary comments like North Carolina’s Lieutentant Governor (who called Cogburn’s simple and rational decision applying the precedents dictated by the courts above him “the judicial fiat of one unelected man”) would do well to clam up and take a civics lesson.

Now, if Burr would just apply his own words by: a) halting his ridiculous and completely unexplained, one-man blockade of President Obama’s appointment of federal prosecutor Jennifer May-Parker to serve as the first African-American judge in the history of North Carolina’s Eastern District and b) condemning Forest for his ridiculous and inflammatory pandering, we might just get somewhere.

News
ACLU marriage equality

Image: ACLU of North Carolina

Court decisions have been coming in a fast and furious fashion in recent days — so fast that many may be left scratching their heads by Judge Osteen’s ruling yesterday on marriage equality.

If you’re one of the thousands who’s saying to him or herself this morning something like “What the heck? I though Judge Cogburn settled this last week,” the good folks at the ACLU of North Carolina issued a statement late yesterday that explains the deal:

Second Federal Judge Rules N.C. Marriage Ban Unconstitutional

GREENSBORO – U.S. District Judge William Osteen today ruled that North Carolina’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples is unconstitutional. He is the second federal judge to do so in five days. The ruling came in two lawsuits brought by the American Civil Liberties Union and ACLU of North Carolina Legal Foundation.

On Friday, U.S. District Judge Max Cogburn issued a separate ruling that struck down North Carolina’s marriage ban and added North Carolina to the list of states to extend the freedom to marry to same-sex couples. Judge Osteen, who was appointed to the federal bench by President George W. Bush, also gave North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis and Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger the ability to intervene in the case on appeal.

“Judge Osteen’s ruling is the second in five days to declare North Carolina’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples to be unconstitutional,” said Chris Brook, Legal Director for the ACLU of North Carolina. “This second ruling further emphasizes that North Carolina’s now-defunct marriage ban was discriminatory and denied same-sex couples their constitutional rights to due process and equal protection under the law. The legislature can attempt to pursue an appeal if they so choose; however, that would only unnecessarily expend taxpayer resources. North Carolinians can rest assured: the freedom to marry is here to stay.”

Background:

The ACLU filed the first legal challenge to North Carolina’s marriage ban in June 2013 when it amended a 2012 lawsuit seeking second parent adoption rights for six families headed by same-sex couples. The adoption lawsuit, Fisher-Borne, et al. v. Smith, was originally filed in June 2012, just weeks after passage of the state’s marriage ban, known as Amendment One, which the ACLU lobbied and campaigned against. In April 2014, the ACLU filed a second lawsuit, Gerber and Berlin, et al. v. Smith, challenging North Carolina’s marriage ban on behalf of three married same-sex couples, one member of which has a serious medical condition.

News

New from the N.C. State Health Plan website’s “newsroom”:

Eligibility Update Regarding Friday’s Ruling on Same Sex Marriages

A federal court has overturned North Carolina’s law regarding same gender marriage, recognizing same sex marriages as legal in North Carolina. This ruling now makes same sex spouses of State Health Plan members eligible for State Health Plan coverage.

This ruling is considered a qualifying life event and eligible spouses will have 30 days to add their spouse. A marriage certificate will be necessary to verify the spouse is an eligible member. The effective date of coverage will be November 1, 2014.

Beyond this initial 30 days, marriage is a qualifying life event and members will have 30 days to add a spouse to their health plan coverage.

Please see your Health Benefits Representative for assistance in enrolling an eligible spouse.

News

From Rockingham County to New Hanover, from Mecklenburg County to Jackson, Register of Deeds offices across North Carolina are issuing their first same-sex marriage licenses this morning.

QNotes reports that as of this morning, all counties are issuing same-sex marriage licenses:

As of Monday morning, all 100 counties in North Carolina were issuing licenses to same-sex couples. Over the weekend, Iredell County Register of Deeds Matt McCall had said he might not issue the licenses, requesting special notice from North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper or other state officials.

The notice came late Sunday evening in an email to all 100 county registers of deeds from officials at the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Service.

[…]

“I will be issuing marriage licenses to all applicants,” McCall said after receiving the health department email. “This is the confirmation I’ve been waiting for.”

More on Qnotes

Equality NC has been busy catching up with many couples at the courthouses, taking photos and celebrating. Check out some of their intagram photos below or follow them here.

Equality NC has also compiled some helpful information for those LGBTQ couples looking to get married.

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Legal heroes of winning UCC lawsuit stand with newly married couples and @equalitync staff on #DayOneNC #CLT

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Fred and James getting married in Cumberland County!!!! #DayOneNC

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#DayOneNC #MarriageEquality #Raleigh Gabriella and Shawn looking beautiful while getting married.

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#DayOneNC #MarriageEquality #Raleigh ACLU wedding favors.

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#DayOneNC #MarriageEquality #Raleigh People in the park getting an officiated marriage ceremony with John from UCC.

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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.