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marriage amendmentEarlier this week, State Senate President Phil Berger and former House Speaker Thom Tillis filed a petition for review at the U.S. Supreme Court, asking the justices to overturn the October decisions by federal district court judges in North Carolina rejecting the state’s same-sex marriage ban.

The federal court rulings followed the July decision by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Bostic v. Schaefer, overturning a similar Virginia ban.

Tillis and Berger then intervened in two North Carolina cases for purposes of appeal after state Attorney General Roy Cooper refused to move forward, saying that the courts had now settled the question.

A third district court judge in North Carolina has also rejected the state’s marriage ban, but did not allow the lawmakers to intervene for purposes of appeal. That case, along with the two now before the nation’s highest court, is winding its way through the Fourth Circuit but is not part of the petition for review.

In October, the nation’s highest court refused to take several appeals overturning state marriage bans, likely because at that time all of the underlying decisions reached the same conclusion and no circuit split existed.

Since then, though, the Sixth Circuit has upheld bans in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee, creating the necessary split of authority on the issue.

The justices have been considering petitions for review in cases out of each of those states and may decide as early as this Friday which, if any, they will take. If they do hear any of the appeals, argument will likely be in April with a decision expected near the end of the term in late June.

Notably, the justices did refuse on Monday to take a case out of Louisiana which, like the North Carolina cases, had not yet been reviewed by the circuit court of appeals.

As SCOTUSblog’s Lyle Denniston notes:

The Court’s denial of review in the Louisiana same-sex marriage case is not a reliable indicator of the Court’s current interest in the authority of the states to ban same-sex marriage. The couples in the Louisiana case had asked the Court to bypass the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, and take on the case without waiting. The Justices’ response probably indicates a desire not to intrude into the review by the Fifth Circuit, which held a hearing on the Louisiana case, and two others, just last Friday. The Court seldom chooses to bypass appeals courts, although it clearly has the authority to do so.

State Rep. Tim Moore, sworn in as the new House Speaker yesterday, will now take the place of Tillis in the petition. Moore has long opposed gay marriage and has said that he and his Republican colleagues “owe it to the voters” to take all steps to uphold the state’s ban.

Recent polling shows, however, that most state residents now favor gay marriage.

The petition, though filed on January 9, was not docketed by the court until Tuesday. Read it in full here.

Commentary

Gay marriage 3Regular NC Policy Watch contributor Charles Beem weighs in this morning with is thoughts on the painfully slow process of finalizing America’s embrace of marriage equality.

The waiting game: Marriage equality and the Supreme Court
By Dr. Charles Beem

It has been nearly three months since the triumph of marriage equality in North Carolina, and it appears that the institution of heterosexual marriage has survived intact. For the LGBT community in North Carolina, it is the one bright spot in an otherwise dismal couple of years, which has seen this state slide from purple to red and all the attendant regression in health care, education, and civil rights that has accompanied the slide to the right.

Most notorious, of course, was the passage of Amendment One, a sucker punch thrown at the electorate in a May 2012 primary election in which a whopping 34% of registered voters participated, which, from hindsight, was sort of like a state passing a law prohibiting interracial marriage on the eve of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Loving v. Virginia (1967). After a federal appeals court declared the amendment unconstitutional last October, we witnessed the spectacle of conservative legislative leaders spending your tax dollars to try to defend the amendment, which reminds me of the soldiers who fanatically defended Hitler’s bunker from the Russians after he was dead!

Yet despite the momentous gains made for marriage equality in 2014, there is still cause to worry. Quite unlike the Warren Court that ruled unanimously in Loving in 1967, the current U.S. Supreme Court is quite obviously divided on an issue that a majority of Americans are coming to believe is a natural and logical, if not inevitable, progression of civil rights. Read More

Commentary

Mike Meno of the ACLU of North Carolina issued the following statement in response to the announcement this morning by the U.S. Supreme Court that would not take up the appeals of various circuit court decisions upholding marriage equality:

U.S. Supreme Court today announced it would not review appeals court rulings in seven states, including one from Virginia by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, striking down state bans on marriage for same-sex couples. The decision means that all of those rulings stand, and the states in their jurisdiction must comply with the law and recognize the freedom to marry for same-sex couples.

North Carolina is one of five states in the Fourth Circuit. The Supreme Court’s announcement means that all states in the Fourth Circuit, including North Carolina, are bound by the Fourth Circuit’s ruling that struck down Virginia’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples.

“The Supreme Court’s decision means that the freedom to marry for same-sex couples must be recognized here in North Carolina without delay,” said Chris Brook, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of North Carolina. “We are asking the district court here in North Carolina to immediately issue a ruling striking down North Carolina’s unconstitutional and discriminatory ban on marriage for same-sex couples. Every day that gay and lesbian couples in North Carolina are denied the ability to marry the person they love places their families and children in legal and financial jeopardy. The time has come to end this unfair treatment once and for all and to let our American values of freedom and equality apply to all couples.”

The ACLU and ACLU of North Carolina Legal Foundation have filed two federal lawsuits challenging North Carolina’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples, both in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina in Greensboro. The first, Fisher-Borne, et al., v. Smith, was filed in July 2013 as an amended complaint to a 2012 lawsuit challenging North Carolina’s ban on second parent adoptions on behalf of six families across the state headed by same-sex couples. On April 9, 2014, the ACLU filed a second federal lawsuit, Gerber and Berlin, et al., v. Cooper, on behalf of three married, same-sex couples seeking state recognition of their marriages. Because of the serious medical condition of one member of each couple, the Gerber plaintiffs are asking the court to take swift action.

The ACLU has asked the judge in those cases to quickly overturn North Carolina’s marriage ban in light of a July ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit that found Virginia’s similar marriage ban unconstitutional.

To date, the ACLU has legal challenges to marriage bans pending in 13 states.

News

voteAs we posted earlier today, the justices of the Supreme Court were considering an emergency stay of lower court rulings finding Ohio voting law changes unconstitutional.

That request apparently went to the full court and, as Lyle Denniston at SCOTUSblog notes here, was granted:

With just sixteen hours before polling stations were to open in Ohio, the Supreme Court on Monday afternoon blocked voters from beginning tomorrow to cast their ballots in this year’s general election.  By a vote of five to four, the Justices put on hold a federal judge’s order providing new opportunities for voting before election day, beyond what state leaders wanted.

The order will remain in effect until the Court acts on an appeal by state officials.  If that is denied, then the order lapses.  It is unclear when that scenario will unfold.  The state’s petition has not yet been filed formally.

Uncategorized

Hobby LobbyAs reported in numerous places — click here for Ian Millhiser’s quick take at the for the Center for American Progress — the widely-dreaded Hobby Lobby decision came down today from the U.S. Supreme Court. In response, the good folks at Mother Jones posted the following article.

On Monday, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg penned a blistering dissent to the Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling that the government can’t require certain employers to provide insurance coverage for methods of birth control and emergency contraception that conflict with their religious beliefs. Ginsburg wrote that her five male colleagues, “in a decision of startling breadth,” would allow corporations to opt out of almost any law that they find “incompatible with their sincerely held religious beliefs.”

Here are seven more key quotes from Ginsburg’s dissent in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby: Read More