The Carteret County News-Times is reporting that a Republican state lawmaker appearing at a Carteret County Tea Party event told those gathered that the Republican leadership has a plan to overrule or impeach state’s attorney general Roy Cooper following his recent statements on the 14th circuit court ruling overturning a ban on same-sex marriages in Virginia.
Sen. Norm Sanderson(NC-2) told local Tea Party members on Thursday, August 7th that the “top leadership” in the state legislature are working to remove Mr. Cooper from office.
As reported by the News-Times:
“Last year in the legislation we passed, was if both the speaker of the House and the president of the Senate come together, come to terms and say that the attorney general is not representing the citizens of North Carolina like they ought to be, then we have set-aside money to hire private counsel to represent us and that’s what’s getting ready to happen,” Mr. Sanderson said.
His comments came during the inaugural meeting of the Morehead-Beaufort Tea Party held upstairs at Floyd’s 1921 Restaurant on Bridges Street. About 16 were in attendance, including a News-Times reporter.
“If he’s not going to defend what we, the citizens of North Carolina, want him to defend, we need to probably impeach him because he’s been a vocal opponent of the marriage amendment ever since it was passed,” Mr. Sanderson said.
According to Sen. Sanderson, any decision on going after Cooper would be made by Sen. Phil Berger and Thom Tillis. “Our leadership hasn’t made the final decision but everything is on ready, set, go if that’s what we want to do,” Mr. Sanderson told those gathered.
On July 28th, AG 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 followed a decision by a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia which ruled a state constitutional amendment and statutory provisions barring gay marriage and denying recognition of such unions performed in other states violate the U.S. Constitution. The 14th 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.”
The Constitutionality of Amendment One has been of little concern to the supporters of the amendment. Like Phil Berger and Sen. Sanderson they have claimed that in not defending the indefensible ballot initiative, Cooper is somehow subverting the will of the people. Amendment One was approved by voters during a Republican Presidential primary that saw state-wide turnout that was primarily Republican. Democrats had only local primaries and no Presidential contest at the time.
Amendment One has little chance of succeeding in court because anti-gay legislation from DOMA to Prop 8 has not been able to withstand Constitutional scrutiny. 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. Attorney General Cooper indicated that he no longer sees it in the best interest of tax-payers to pump money into a losing court case.
It is possible that Sen. Sanderson was simply pandering to the 16 people (plus one News-Times reporter) who were in the room for the first meeting of the Carteret County Tea Party. According to the News-Times the group’s meeting had begun earlier with a discussion of its “core principals” and there was consensus that “godly changes” were needed in all levels of government and society due to moral decay and “lowered standards.”
Roy Cooper’s office has not commented on this story nor has Phil Berger’s or Thom Tillis’.