Same Sex Marriage In North Carolina

In May 2012, North Carolina voters approved Amendment One which outlawed same sex marriage, civil unions and domestic partnerships for gay and straight couples.(See N.C.G.S. § 51-1.2. Marriages between persons of the same gender not valid; Article XIV, § 6 of the N.C. Constitution).

However, in June 2013 the United States Supreme Court struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act and upheld a California trial court's ruling legalizing gay marriage (Hollingsworth v. Perry)

Now North Carolina's ban on same-sex marriage has recently been struck down. Two federal district court judges reached the same conclusion in two separate decisions (Asheville & Greensboro). North Carolina is located in Fourth Circuit, which held that Virginia's similar ban to be unconstitutional. That Fourth Circuit decision in the Virginia case was one that the Supreme Court refused to review last week.

U.S. District Judge William L. Osteen, Jr., ordered state officials to stop enforcing the state ban, holding that "any source of state law that operates to deny same-sex couples the right to marry in the State or prohibits recognition of same-sex marriages lawfully solemnized in other States, Territories, or a District of the United States, or threatens clergy or other officiants who solemnize the union of same-sex couples with civil or criminal penalties, are UNCONSTITUTIONAL as they violate the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution". His order was to take effect immediately, but shortly before issuing that ruling, Judge Osteen allowed state legislatures Thom Tillis and Phil Berger to enter the case, for purposes of pursuing an appeal. The lawmakers sought to enter the case after the state's attorney general had said he would no longer try to defend the law, in the light of the Fourth Circuit's ruling in the Virginia case. Then, on 08 October 2014, Chief US District Court Judge William L. Osteen, Jr. issued a late afternoon order lifting his earlier stays and dismissing all motions in two cases challenging the state's ban on same-sex marriages after the office of North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper filed documents with the court essentially dropping all further defense of the 2012 ban approved by voters.

On 10 October 2014, U.S. District Judge Max O. Cogburn, Jr., of Asheville denied Tillis and Berger's intervention and also found the law to be unconstitutional pursuant to the Fourth Circuit's decision in Bostic v. Schaefer. That judge also did not put his ruling on hold pending any appeal, specifically holding that "any source of state law that operates to deny same-sex couples the right to marry in the State or prohibits recognition of same-sex marriages lawfully solemnized in other States, Territories, or a District of the United States, or threatens clergy or other officiants who solemnize the union of same-sex couples with civil or criminal penalties, are UNCONSTITUTIONAL as they violate the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution"