CHARLOTTE, N.C. — North Carolina’s Republican legislative leaders vowed to continue defending the state’s anti-LGBT constitutional amendment despite a judge’s ruling Friday overturning the ban.
“While we recognize the tremendous passion on all sides of this issue, we promised to defend the will of North Carolina voters, because they – not judges and not politicians – define marriage as between one man and one woman and placed that in our state constitution,” read a joint statement from Republican state House Speaker Thom Tillis and Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger.
Tillis and Berger added: “It is disappointing this decision was made without North Carolina’s law receiving its day in court, and we will continue to work to ensure the voice of the voters is heard.”
Western North Carolina U.S. District Court Judge Max O. Cogburn, Jr., ruled North Carolina’s amendment unconstitutional on Friday. But, two lawsuits challenging the amendment in Greensboro remain active.
U.S. District Court Judge William Osteen has given plaintiffs in the case until Monday at 3 p.m. to respond to several questions. The answers to those questions will help Osteen determine whether the state has any remaining rights to appeal an order striking down the amendment to the Fourth Circuit or the Supreme Court and whether Republican state leaders have any standing to intervene.
Osteen had blocked several attempts by the GOP to delay a ruling, including denying their requests for an eight-day extension and a separate request to present oral arguments to the court.
Still, GOP leaders seem prepared to continue their fight.
Tillis and Berger brought on a second attorney with ties to a national anti-LGBT organization late Friday afternoon, even after dozens of couples received marriage licenses and were legally wed.
Attorney Joseph Vanderhulst will join the case with his colleague Noel Johnson from ActRight Legal Foundation. The foundation was established by National Organization for Marriage co-founder Brian Brown.
The National Organization for Marriage has been the leading proponent of anti-gay marriage laws and amendments across the country. The group poured more than $400,000 into North Carolina’s anti-gay amendment campaign in 2012 — it was the single largest contribution amendment backers received.
Also on the GOP’s case is John Eastman, a conservative California legal scholar who currently chairs the National Organization for Marriage’s board.
All of the remaining legal maneuvers will likely have little effect in the state, where legal same-sex marriages seem unlikely to stop.
Regardless, any action by the GOP’s attorneys will still cost taxpayers thousands of dollars. The General Assembly has already racked up at least $1.2 million in their own legal bills, after passing legislation last year granting the legislative body the power to intervene in legal challenges against the state. The law was passed out of distrust for North Carolina Attorney Roy Cooper after three other state attorneys general announced they’d no longer defend their state’s anti-LGBT marriage bans.
Eastman has said he’ll donate the first $10,000 of his attorney fees, after which he’ll charge the state $400 per hour. ActRight has said they will offset their fees with private donations.