By Chad Nance
“This decision today is based solely on the futility of the legal arguments made here in North Carolina.”
North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper
Monday afternoon in a press conference, North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper announced that his office will no longer attempt to defend Amendment One, North Carolina’s anti-gay bigotry amendment to the NC Constitution which was passed in 2012. This follows a decision by a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia that ruled a state constitutional and statutory provisions barring gay marriage and denying recognition of such unions performed in other states violate the U.S. Constitution. The circuit court has jurisdiction over Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina. The panel’s decision can be appealed to the full court or to the Supreme Court.
“Today we know our law will be overturned as well.” stated AG Cooper. “It’s time to stop fighting fights we can’t win.”
According to legal experts the 4th Circuit ruling will not take immediate effect. The 4th Circuit court will decide over the next few days when the ruling is in effect and whether there is a stay on the decision. The attorneys for the Commonwealth of Virginia will most likely request a stay.
At his press conference, Attorney General Roy Cooper stated that there will be no valid gay marriage in North Carolina until the Supreme Court of the United States either affirms the 4th Circuit’s ruling or decides the case for themselves.
Following the U.S. v. Windsor, a SCOTUS case from 2013 that declared the federal DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) un-Constitutional, federal appeals courts have declared that state laws denying same-sex couples the freedom to marry, or refusing to recognize the out-of-state marriages of same-sex couples, are unconstitutional. The 10th Circuit declared Utah’s marriage ban unconstitutional on June 25th. Oklahoma’s ban was struck down by the 10th Circuit on July 18th. SCOTUS did not, however, give a definitive decision as it relates to what individual states can do, but they did offer guidance. That guidance has been used by 14 lower federal courts, as well as the 10th and 4th Circuits to rule state legislation and ballot initiatives like Amendment One to be un-Constitutional. In addition to the 4th Circuit cases, there are marriage cases pending in several other federal circuits, including the 5th, 6th, 7th, and 9th, and overall there are more than 80 marriage cases pending nationwide
“I’ve concluded that the State of North Carolina will agree to the 4th Circuit’s decision.” AG Cooper said in closing, putting a fork in the state’s defense of Amendment One. Republican legislators have yet to announce if they will use tax-payer money to hire their own lawyers to defend the amendment.