- The Washington Times - Friday, October 10, 2014

Courts cleared the way for gay marriage in two more states Friday evening, while officials in an increasingly dwindling number of states worked to defend their laws defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman.

The moves mean 29 states now perform same-sex marriages, the latest coming from actions in the Supreme Court and the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. On Friday the Supreme Court denied a request by Idaho officials to stay a Tuesday decision by the 9th Circuit that legalized gay marriage in their state.

The high court’s order did not carry an explanation or clarification of which justices issued it. Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, who responds to 9th Circuit issues, had initially granted a temporary stay to permit parties to file briefs.

The Friday order meant that gay marriages could commence in Idaho once the 9th Circuit took a final procedural step. A lesbian couple married late Friday in Moscow, Idaho. Other county clerks said they would welcome gay couples Tuesday when their offices reopen after the Columbus Day holiday.

The 9th Circuit’s ruling is also likely to affect Alaska, Arizona and Montana, which are part of its jurisdiction. A hearing on gay marriage was held in Alaska on Friday; Arizona officials are set to file legal briefs in another federal court by Oct. 16. A lawsuit is in its early stages in Montana.

On Sunday, Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Center, told “Fox News Sunday” that the Supreme Court has “lit a fuse to a powder keg culturally” which will have long-term ramifications in the country. The gay marriage issue will remain as unsettled as the abortion issue if the courts keep “robbing the people of their votes and their voices,” he said.

Former Solicitor General Theodore Olson, who has successfully represented gay couples in several landmark cases, told the news program that the Constitution and Bill of Rights exist “precisely” to protect minorities from “majority rule.”

In North Carolina, a federal judge in Charlotte ruled Friday that gay marriages could now go forward due to a 4th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in Virginia overturning that state’s marriage amendment.

U.S. District Court Judge Max O. Cogburn, Jr., in Asheville, North Carolina, issued two orders shortly after 5 p.m. overturning North Carolina’s marriage law and rejecting a request by state legislative officials to intervene in the case, which was brought by church leaders who support gay marriage.

Drew Reisinger, register of deeds for Buncombe County, North Carolina, kept his Asheville office open late Friday to begin issuing marriage licenses to waiting couples. When the crowd gathered in the lobby heard the news, they erupted in cheers, and within minutes, couples who had brought ministers with them began exchanging their vows on the steps outside the office, The Associated Press reported.

It was not immediately clear what opponents of gay marriage would do about the Asheville ruling.

But House Speaker Thom Tillis and Senate Pro Tem Phil Berger, who were turned away by Judge Cogburn, issued a statement saying: “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.”

The North Carolina saga is not over: On Monday, another federal judge in Greensboro is expecting legal briefs to be filed in a different gay marriage case.

In that case, Mr. Tillis and Mr. Berger filed papers Friday asking U.S. District Judge William L. Osteen Jr. to permit them to step in to defend the state’s marriage law. The lawmakers argued that a new North Carolina law specifically permits such intervention by lawmakers when there is disagreement between them and the state attorney general.

Judge Osteen set a Monday afternoon deadline for legal papers from North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper and others who favor gay marriage.

In Kansas, the state Supreme Court responded Friday by blocking issuance of licenses “in the interest of establishing statewide consistency.” It also set a Nov. 6 court date to hear arguments about whether the state can continue to deny licenses.

“The situation is needlessly uncertain, is untenable and unfair to all interested parties,” state Attorney General Derek Schmidt wrote in his petition asking the Kansas Supreme Court to “set aside” a Johnson County judge’s order permitting gay marriage.

At least one Kansas county clerk issued a lesbian couple a marriage license this week, and they promptly married; however, other county clerks refused to issue licenses without permission.

In South Carolina, state officials are also trying to defend their state’s man-woman marriage law.

The state Supreme Court unanimously approved a request from South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson to block probate court judges from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples while a federal lawsuit on the matter was pending. U.S. District Judge J. Michelle Childs has asked for briefs to be filed by Oct. 15 in the South Carolina case, Bradacs v. Haley.

This flurry of gay marriage actions was set off Monday when the Supreme Court denied review of three circuit court rulings.

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