Write the check, Mr. Tillis.
If you want to continue North Carolina’s defense of its same-sex marriage ban, even after the U.S. Supreme Court implicitly rejected it and other bans Monday, have at it. If you want to keep fighting a fight that for all practical and legal purposes has been decided, go for it.
But pay for it.
Don’t spend North Carolina’s money doing so. Don’t waste tax dollars on outside attorneys that N.C. lawmakers have said you can use to intervene “on behalf of the General Assembly” in legal challenges of state laws.
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That’s apparently what you’re planning, given your reaction Monday to the Supreme Court’s decision to let stand lower court rulings striking down same-sex marriage bans. One of those rulings, on a Virginia law, came from the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals. That decision applies to North Carolina, too.
But in a statement Monday with N.C. Senate leader Phil Berger, you said you plan to “vigorously defend the values of our state and the will of more than 60 percent of North Carolina voters who made it clear that marriage is between one man and one woman.”
About that 60 percent: It’s a pretty good bet that the percentage of people who voted for North Carolina’s Amendment One in 2012 would not match the percentage who support it now. There’s been a dramatic, 24-month shift in public opinion on homosexuality and same-sex marriage. Since N.C. voters passed Amendment One, voters in other states have rejected similar measures. Politicians, including conservatives, have reconsidered their stances.
But even if a significant number of North Carolinians still support a same-sex marriage ban, we’re guessing that many of them don’t support paying for a lost cause. That’s what legal experts are saying about North Carolina’s case. The state’s last hope would be to find a legal argument that hasn’t been made in defense of the ban, but as University of North Carolina family law specialist Maxine Eichner said Monday, “There is nothing at issue that hasn’t already been decided.”
We wish the Supreme Court had been as blunt. By stepping out of the way of lower-court rulings Monday instead of issuing their own opinion, the justices gave same-sex marriage opponents the perception of an opening. But these same justices already struck down the core of the Defense of Marriage Act last year, and more than 40 state and federal courts have used that decision to reject same-sex marriage bans since.
In other words, Mr. Tillis: It’s over. You can disagree with the Supreme Court, but you should follow the lead of your attorney general Roy Cooper, who recognizes the legal futility of fighting. Better yet, look to your governor, Pat McCrory, who told reporters Monday that while he didn’t like the justices’ decision, he believes he must respect it.
Any other course is a waste of time. It’s an irresponsible use of state resources. It’s a cynical play for conservative votes in your U.S. Senate race. It’s one last slap at homosexuals in North Carolina.
It’s not, however, something that N.C. taxpayers should sponsor. If you want to keep up the battle, feel free. But write the check yourself. Or maybe your campaign can pick up the tab.