Attorney General Roy Cooper won't defend gay marriage ban

Tuesday, July 29, 2014
Cooper won't defend gay marriage ban
Attorney General Roy Cooper said Monday he predicts the law banning same-sex marriage in North Carolina could be on the chopping block following the ruling out of Virginia.

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper said Monday he predicts North Carolina's ban on same-sex marriage will be on the chopping block following a court ruling out of Virginia. He said because of that, he will not defend against the lawsuits seeking to overturn North Carolina's constitutional amendment approved by voters in 2012.

"After reviewing the 4th Circuit decision and consulting with attorneys here, I have concluded that the State of North Carolina will not oppose the cases moving forward," said Cooper.

Read Cooper's full remarks here (.pdf)

The announcement rattled supporters of the law but was celebrated by critics.

"We love North Carolina, but part of us doesn't love being here because we don't feel the same as everyone else," said Mackenzie Sullivan.

Sullivan married her wife in Minnesota. Two days later, they moved to North Carolina.

"And we weren't really married anymore," said Sullivan.

On Monday night, she joined a crowd at Motorco in Durham celebrating a change that could give them the title once again, but in North Carolina.

At a Monday news conference, Cooper said that the same 4th U.S. Circuit of Appeals that ruled Virginia's same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional has jurisdiction over North Carolina federal courts, which have been upholding a similar same-sex marriage ban.

"Our attorneys have vigorously defended North Carolina's marriage law, which is their job, but today we know our law almost surely will be overturned as well," said Cooper.

With that prediction, Cooper said the four pending cases challenging the law here could end up forcing a judge's hand.

"We believe that the judge will be bound by today's 4th Circuit opinion and we believe that that judge will be bound to find North Carolina's marriage law unconstitutional," said Cooper.

With that, Cooper also said he will not oppose these cases going forward.

"It's time to stop making arguments we will lose," said Cooper.

Those on the other side of the issue said it's a blow to the sanctity of marriage and against what voters put into law years ago.

"I think it's outrageous that federal judges are putting themselves in the place of God by overturning the institution he has created," argued Tami Fitzgerald with the North Carolina Values Coalition.

Senate President Phil Berger (R) also commented on Attorney General Cooper's announcement saying, "North Carolinians overwhelmingly voted to put the marriage amendment into our state constitution and expect their Attorney General to uphold his oath of office by defending that constitution."

While this ruling out of Virginia could lead to change in North Carolina, it won't be immediate. First, it has to go through the court system, then ultimately the U.S. Supreme Court.

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