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General Synod of United Church of Christ v. Resinger

United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Charlotte Division

October 10, 2014

GENERAL SYNOD OF THE UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
DREW RESINGER, REGISTER OF DEEDS FOR BUNCOMBE COUNTY, et al., Defendants

For General Synod of The United Church of Christ, Joseph Hoffman, Reverend, Nancy Ellett Allison, Reverend, Nathan King, Reverend, Nancy Kraft, Reverend, Jonathan Freirich, Rabbi, Robin Tanner, Reverend, Mark Ward, Reverend, Dr. Nancy E. Petty, Reverend, Kay Diane Ansley, Catherine McGaughey, Kathleen Smith, Shauna Bragan, Stacy Maloney, Joanne Marinaro, Joel Blady, Jeffrey Addy, Betty Mack, Carol Taylor, Plaintiffs: David Weiner, Jonathan Martel, Samuel Witten, Sarah Warlick, Thomas Glazer, LEAD ATTORNEYS, PRO HAC VICE, Arnold & Porter LLP, Washington, DC; John West Gresham, S. Luke Largess, LEAD ATTORNEYS, Tin, Fulton, Walker & Owens, Charlotte, NC; Mark James Kleinschmidt, LEAD ATTORNEY, Tin Fulton Walker & Owen, Chapel Hill, NC; Sean Morris, LEAD ATTORNEY, PRO HAC VICE, Arnold & Porter LLP, Los Angeles, CA; Jacob H. Sussman, Tin Fulton Walker & Owen, PLLC, Charlotte, NC.

For Elizabeth Cloninger, also known as Lisa, Plaintiff: David Weiner, Jonathan Martel, Samuel Witten, Sarah Warlick, Thomas Glazer, LEAD ATTORNEYS, PRO HAC VICE, Arnold & Porter LLP, Washington, DC; John West Gresham, S. Luke Largess, LEAD ATTORNEYS, Tin, Fulton, Walker & Owens, Charlotte, NC; Mark James Kleinschmidt, LEAD ATTORNEY, Tin Fulton Walker & Owen, Chapel Hill, NC; Jacob H. Sussman, Tin Fulton Walker & Owen, PLLC, Charlotte, NC.

For Cathy Fry, Plaintiff: David Weiner, Sarah Warlick, Thomas Glazer, LEAD ATTORNEYS, PRO HAC VICE, Arnold & Porter LLP, Washington, DC; John West Gresham, S. Luke Largess, LEAD ATTORNEYS, Tin, Fulton, Walker & Owens, Charlotte, NC; Mark James Kleinschmidt, LEAD ATTORNEY, Tin Fulton Walker & Owen, Chapel Hill, NC; Sean Morris, LEAD ATTORNEY, PRO HAC VICE, Arnold & Porter LLP, Los Angeles, CA; Jacob H. Sussman, Tin Fulton Walker & Owen, PLLC, Charlotte, NC.

For The Very Reverend Todd Donatelli, Rabbi Ariel Edery, The Reverend Canon Thomas Murphy, Central Conference of American Rabbis, Alliance of Baptists, Inc., Reverend Amy Jacks Dean, Association of Welcoming & Affirming Baptists, Reverend Milly Morrow, Reverend Russ Dean, Rabbi Eric M. Solomon, Rabbi Ari N. Margolis, Rabbi Lucy H.F. Dinner, Plaintiffs: S. Luke Largess, Tin, Fulton, Walker & Owen, Charlotte, NC; Jacob H. Sussman, Tin Fulton Walker & Owen, PLLC, Charlotte, NC.

For Drew Reisinger, Register Of Deeds, Defendant: Tikkun A.S. Gottschalk, LEAD ATTORNEY, Asheville, NC.

For Wayne Nixon, Register Of Deeds, Defendant: Richard Martin Koch, LEAD ATTORNEY, Law Offices of Richard M. Koch, PA, Charlotte, NC.

For Tonia Hampton, Register Of Deeds, Defendant: Philip Scott Anderson, LEAD ATTORNEY, Long, Parker, Warren & Jones, P.A., Asheville, NC.

For J. David Granberry, Register Of Deeds, Defendant: Robert Spencer Adden, Jr., LEAD ATTORNEY, Ruff, Bond, Cobb, Wade & Bethune, Charlotte, NC; Ronald L. Gibson, LEAD ATTORNEY, Ruff, Bond, Cobb, Wade & Bethune, L.L.P., Charlotte, NC.

For Laura M. Riddick, Register Of Deeds, Defendant: Roger A. Askew, Scott Wood Warren, LEAD ATTORNEYS, Office of the Wake County Attorney, Raleigh, NC.

For Ronald L. Moore, District Attorney, Roxann Vaneekhoven, District Attorney, Bradley Greenway, District Attorney, Andrew Murray, District Attorney, Defendants: Olga Eugenia Vysotskaya de Brito, LEAD ATTORNEY, N.C. Department of Justice, Raleigh, NC.

For Ned Mangum, District Attorney, Defendant: Olga Eugenia Vysotskaya de Brito, LEAD ATTORNEY, N.C. Department of Justice, Raleigh, NC.

For PHIL BERGER, President Pro Tempore of the North Carolina Senate, Intervenor Defendant: Robert D. Potter, Jr., Charlotte, NC.

For Roy Cooper, Attorney General, Intervenor: Olga Eugenia Vysotskaya de Brito, LEAD ATTORNEY, N.C. Department of Justice, Raleigh, NC.

For THOM TILLIS, North Carolina Speaker of the House of Representatives, Intervenor: Robert D. Potter, Jr., Charlotte, NC.

OPINION

Page 791

Max O. Cogburn, Jr., United States District Judge.

MEMORANDUM OF DECISION AND ORDER

THIS MATTER is before the court on its own Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings. In light of the decision of the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Bostic v. Schaefer, 760 F.3d 352 (4th Cir. 2014), cert. denied,135 S.Ct. 314, 190 L.Ed.2d 140, 2014 WL 4354536 (U.S. 2014), as to which the Mandate has now issued, Bostic v. Schaefer, 760 F.3d 352 (4th Cir. 2014), the court determines that North Carolina's laws prohibiting same-sex marriage are unconstitutional as a matter of law.[1]

Specifically, the court finds Article XIV, Section 6 of the North Carolina Constitution, North Carolina General Statute § 51-1 et seq., and any other source of state law that operates to deny same-sex couples the right to marry in the State of North Carolina, 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, in accordance with Bostic, supra, unconstitutional as they violate the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Finally, in the hours preceding this Order there have been a number of last minute motions filed by interested parties. 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.

Page 792

ORDER

IT IS, THEREFORE, ORDERED that

(1) the consent Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's First Amendment Claims (#114) is GRANTED, and those claims are DISMISSED without prejudice;
(2) the court's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings is GRANTED, and the court finds Article XIV, Section 6 of the North Carolina Constitution, North Carolina General Statute § 51-1 et seq., and any other source of state law that operates to deny same-sex couples the right to marry in the State of North Carolina 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;
(3) all other pending motions are terminated as MOOT.

PERMANENT INJUNCTION

Defendants are PERMANENTLY ENJOINED from enforcing such laws to the extent these laws prohibit a person from marrying another person of the same gender, prohibit recognition of same-sex marriages lawfully solemnized in other States, Territories, or a District of the United States, or seek to punish in any way clergy or other officiants who solemnize the union of same-sex couples.

With the exception of retaining such jurisdiction as may be necessary to enforce such injunction, this action is otherwise DISMISSED.

The Clerk of Court shall issue a Judgment consistent with this Memorandum of Decision and Order.


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