By M.H. Cavanaugh
Christian Action League
January 9, 2015
Legislative leaders announced on Thursday that they would file a petition for certiorari urging the United States Supreme Court to hear legal arguments for North Carolina’s constitutional marriage amendment, which defines the institution as one man and one woman.
The U.S. Supreme Court sidestepped the issue of gay marriage in October of last year saying they would not take up any of the same sex marriage cases. On appeal before SCOTUS was a decision by the federal 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, which holds jurisdiction over the Tar Heel state, declaring Virginia’s marriage protection amendment as unconstitutional.
The decision by the High Court not to take up any same-sex marriage appeals resulted in quick action by the ACLU asking two federal judges in North Carolina, Chief Justice William Osteen and US District Judge Max Cogburn, to overturn North Carolina’s Marriage Amendment.
Commensurate with the 4th Circuit’s earlier ruling, both Justices Cogburn and Osteen overturned North Carolina’s marriage amendment. But Judge Osteen did grant to legislative leaders (The Senate President Pro-Tempore, Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) and the Speaker of the House, Thom Tillis (R-Mecklenburg) the standing to intervene – something they had filed to do because the state’s attorney general, Roy Cooper, was unwilling to defend the amendment and argued the state should accept the 4th Circuit’s ruling.
Authorized by legislation that passed in 2013 to intervene, legislative leadership hired a high-powered conservative legal expert, John Eastman, to lead the case in defense of the state’s marriage amendment. Eastman is a former Republican candidate for California office of attorney general, the former dean of Chapman University’s school of law, and chairman of the National Organization for Marriage.
“We’ve said all along North Carolina voters deserve to have their voices heard, and this issue won’t ever be settled until a final decision is made by the U.S. Supreme Court,” said Senate President Pro-Tempore, Phil Berger. “Today’s petition is the most efficient and cost effective way to reach a final resolution.”
Rep. Tim Moore (R-Cleveland), who was elected by the Republican caucus as the Speaker Designee and is expected to step up into former Speaker Thom Tillis’ place when the General Assembly convenes next week, said, “Regardless of where you stand on the ultimate issue, it is important to protect the will of North Carolina voters who overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment.”
The U.S. Supreme Court is not expected to be able to continue avoiding a decision on the issue of same sex marriage, as they did in October of 2014. In November of last year, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Michigan’s marriage protection amendment, upholding marriage amendments in Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee. Some argue that without a ruling from the High Court on same sex marriage the nation will be like a “checkerboard” where same sex couple’s marriages will be legal and illegal as they move across the country.
It takes a vote of at least four justices on the U.S. Supreme Court to decide whether to hear North Carolina’s appeal.