It’s official: Same-sex couples have the freedom to marry in North Carolina
October 10, 2014
After this week’s historic announcement from the United States Supreme Court that ultimately secured the freedom to marry in six states, including Virginia, a federal judge in North Carolina has agreed that the ruling applies to NC’s Amendment 1, which bans same-sex couples from marrying.
Because the 4th Circuit has jurisdiction over North Carolina, a judge in that state resumed proceedings in a federal case, which had been on hold pending the Supreme Court’s decision in Virginia’s Bostic v. Schaefer. Because the Supreme Court denied review of the 4th Circuit’s ruling in favor of the freedom to marry in a Virginia case, all parties agreed that the ruling is binding for North Carolina, clearing the way for the freedom to marry.
Judge Cogburn wrote:
The issue before this court is neither a political issue nor a moral issue. It is a legal issue and it is clear as a matter of what is now settled law in the Fourth Circuit that North Carolina laws prohibiting same sex marriage, refusing to recognize same sex marriages originating elsewhere, and/or threating to penalize those who would solemnize such marriages, are unconstitutional.
This follows a move this summer from North Carolina’s Attorney General, who said he would refuse to defend the state’s ban on marriage between same-sex couples. In July, Attorney General Roy Cooper said that his office would stop defending marriage discrimination, saying that the state would be bound by the 4th Circuit’s decision. Because the stay has been lifted from the cases involving the freedom to marry in the state, same-sex couples in North Carolina are now free to marry.
On Friday, October 10, Judge William Osteen announced that he would give both parties in Fisher-Bone v. Smith and Gerber v. Cooper 10 days to file reports calling for the court to respond in light of the Supreme Court’s decision. The next day, Attorney General Cooper advised local officials to prepare for same-sex couples to be applying for marriage licenses.