Originally published: Oct. 9, 2014, 9:01 a.m.
Updated: Oct. 9, 2014, 8:06 p.m.
Republican state legislative leaders have filed a motion to intervene in two cases which could lead to the legalization of same-sex marriage in North Carolina. In doing so, they have hired the chairman of a national anti-gay marriage group and an attorney with another anti-gay legal foundation to lead their legal fight.
Charlotte attorney Robert Potter was also brought on to assist in asking the federal court to allow the General Assembly to intervene in the cases. House Speaker Thom Tillis and Senate President Pro Tempore submitted their motion shortly after 4 p.m.
In the motion, John Eastman, chair of the National Organization for Marriage, and another attorney are listed. The second attorney works with ActRight Legal Foundation, established by National Organization for Marriage co-founder Brian Brown.
Attorneys have radical anti-gay ties
The National Organization for Marriage has been a leading proponent of anti-gay marriage laws across the country. The group was the single largest donor in the campaign to pass North Carolina’s anti-gay marriage ban, contributing $427,590 to the campaign in 2012.
Eastman took over as chair of the group in 2011. In the past, Eastman has called homosexuality “barbarism.” In 2010, he told a group of California Republicans that citizens have the right respond to “insufferable” government policies — including same-sex marriage — by “rising up and abolishing those governments.”
Eastman also advocated in favor of sodomy laws and called the 2003 Supreme Court decision in Lawrence v. Texas “despotism.”
“Whether one agrees with Goodridge and Lawrence or not, surely it is evident that a judiciary powerful enough to impose such rules is also powerful enough to impose the opposite rules whenever it strikes their fancy,” Eastman wrote for the Brigham Young University Journal of Public Law. “The despotic nature of the action itself, rather than the particular action taken in any given instance, should give us all pause for concern.”
Eastman, who is the former dean of Chapman University School of Law, told The Charlotte Observer that argument for North Carolina’s anti-LGBT amendment still has legal merit.
“I find it particularly troubling that in North Carolina, the attorney general says he is bound by a Virginia decision, a case in which his state had no say,” Eastman said, while criticizing Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring for making legal concessions “that no reasonable attorney would ever make.”
“We will not be making those concessions, and we expect a different outcome,” Eastman told The Observer. “If not in the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, then we will ask the Supreme Court to get involved.”
Attorney Noel Johnson of the ActRight Legal Foundation is also assisting in the potential intervention.
ActRight was founded by Brian Brown, a co-founder of the National Organization for Marriage.
Brown has taken extreme anti-LGBT views, including efforts to link LGBT people and marriage equality to pedophilia. Brown has also said homosexuality is “degrading to the human soul.”
“Well guess what — homosexuality IS a sin in the bible, and virtually every other sacred text out there,” Brown once said. “Engaging in homosexual sex IS considered by God to be sinful according to the teachings of most religions. And sin is NOT logical. Sin is deceitful, harmful and degrading to the human soul.”
Equality advocates outraged
Chris Sgro, executive director of statewide LGBT advocacy group Equality North Carolina, slammed Tillis and Berger upon hearing unconfirmed reports earlier Thursday that they might have hired Eastman.
“If indeed Speaker Tillis and Senate President Berger have retained the head of NOM as their counsel in this matter, that is just even more outrageous than them having said they will continue to defend it to begin with,” Sgro told qnotes, accusing the legislative leaders of wasting taxpayer funds at a time when the state is experiencing budget shortfalls.
“There was a budget shortfall that cost schools money, but that Speaker Tillis has money from the taxpayers of North Carolina to send to a special interest outside of the state is abhorrent,” Sgro said. “I am certain voters will hold him accountable in the November election in his race and I am certain voters will hold Senator Berger’s caucus accountable in November as well.”
Sgro also encouraged moderate Republican legislators to speak out.
“I call on moderate Republican members of the caucus to stand up and say where they are on this misuse of taxpayer dollars,” he said.
A lead attorney in a related United Church of Christ suit against the amendment also spoke out against Republican efforts continuing defense of the ban.
“This threatened eleventh hour effort to intervene is strange, to say the least. The marriage equality litigation in North Carolina has been going on for many months and has, by all accounts, been handled in a sharply adversarial yet highly professional manner. There has been a definitive ruling by the Fourth Circuit on the virtually identical marriage laws in Virginia. As a result, we are close to the end of this litigation and ready to banish Amendment One to the dustpan of history. We believe this is an unnecessary use of taxpayer money and judicial resources and seeks only to delay the inevitable: marriage equality in North Carolina,” attorney Jacob Sussman, said in a statement.
Anti-gay attorneys paid with taxpayer funds
The attorneys hired by Tillis and Berger will be paid out of taxpayer funds, enabled by a law passed by legislators last year allowing the General Assembly to intervene in legal cases on behalf of the state.
The law stemmed from distrust of North Carolina Attorney Roy Cooper and was passed after attorneys general in three other states declined to defend their states’ anti-LGBT amendments.
The General Assembly’s legal forays have meant big bills for taxpayers — nearly $1.2 million spent on defending the state on a variety of GOP-favored bills, Raleigh’s News & Observer reported last month.
In the marriage cases, according to The Observer, Eastman said he will donate the first $10,000 of attorneys fees after which he’ll reduce his hourly rate by a third. ActRight will accept private donations to defray legal costs.