Supporters of the LGBT community gathered outside the Charlotte Mecklenburg Government Center Monday to urge state legislators not to override Gov. Pat McCrory’s recent veto of Senate Bill 2 to exempt certain public officials from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, based on religious grounds.
The event was also part of a larger nationwide effort by Human Rights Campaign to organize Americans around the U.S. Supreme Court’s pending decision on same-sex marriage.
Among the participants in the Monday rally was Jim Obergefell, a plaintiff in the Supreme Court case of Obergefell v. Hodges, which is expected to resolve any lingering questions on the legality of same-sex marriage in the nation. The court is expected to rule on the matter in late June, after hearing arguments in April.
Ohio resident Obergefell’s 2013 marriage in Maryland to his ailing longtime partner, the late John Arthur, was not recognized by the state of Ohio. That meant Obergefell’s name could not be listed as “spouse” on Arthur’s death certificate.
“We were not willing to be second-class citizens,” Obergefell said, in explaining why his case has gone to the Supreme Court. “My husband and I were living in Ohio, and our lawful marriage in Maryland meant nothing. ... We were not willing to let our state tell us our marriage didn’t matter.”
Same-sex marriage has been legal in North Carolina since mid-October, when U.S. District Judge Max Cogburn nullified the state’s voter-approved ban. His ruling followed a 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision to strike down Virginia’s gay marriage ban. The 4th Circuit court has jurisdiction over North Carolina.
However, opponents have led a variety of efforts to chip away at legal same-sex marriage, including legislation that would have allowed magistrates to be exempt from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, based on the magistrate’s religious beliefs.
Obergefell lauded McCrory for vetoing the bill involving magistrates and said it was only just, given “we are a nation ruled by laws.”
LGBT supporters predict the next battle will be over comprehensive nondiscrimination protections for LGBT people, who can still be fired in North Carolina for their sexual preference or gender identity.