- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Recent editorials from North Carolina newspapers:

Oct. 7

News and Observer, Raleigh, North Carolina, on same-sex marriage bans:

In declining to take up lower-court rulings that struck down same-sex marriage bans in five states as unconstitutional, the U.S. Supreme Court seems to affirm, at least for now, the right of those of the same sex to marry.

Those who pushed, largely for their own political convenience, a same-sex marriage ban in a constitutional amendment in North Carolina are now facing a steep uphill struggle to maintain that ban. Attorney General Roy Cooper, a Democrat, has said he will no longer fight to keep the ban in place because it would be a waste of time given those earlier court rulings.

In July, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, for one, struck down Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage. North Carolina is part of that circuit. On Tuesday, another federal appeals court ruled against same-sex marriage bans in Idaho and Nevada.

Unfortunately, Phil Berger, president pro tem of the state Senate and House Speaker Thom Tillis, both Republicans, have said they plan to keep on fighting at taxpayer expense with their own lawyers. This is a waste of time and money.

Berger and Tillis, now running for the U.S. Senate, are standing their ground on the argument that Amendment One, as the ban was called, was approved in a referendum by 60 percent of voters. What they don’t like to acknowledge is that turnout for that election was just 34 percent. Critics say that means the amendment was approved by just 20 percent of eligible North Carolina voters, stirred up by the demagoguery of the advocates.

There’s another hole in that argument. Public sentiment doesn’t always follow the Constitution. Chances are that if an amendment denying equal rights for minorities were put on a ballot in the 1940s or 1950s or perhaps even later, it would have passed, though clearly it would be outside the bounds of the U.S. Constitution.

The truth is, the public’s view of gay marriage - particularly the view of younger people - isn’t nearly as hard-edged as it used to be. There simply is a growing tolerance and a belief that gay people should have equal rights in all ways and that to deny them the right to marry is singling them out for political punishment.




Oct. 7

News & Record, Greensboro, North Carolina, on counting the votes:

North Carolina voters are apt to be confused by changes they’ll see at the polls starting later this month. But don’t blame U.S. Court of Appeals Judges James Wynn and Henry Floyd.

“Our decision today acts as a safety net for voters confused about the effect of House Bill 589 on their right to vote while litigation proceeds,” Wynn wrote in a footnote to his ruling last week that stopped two parts of the law. He was joined by Floyd.

House Bill 589, enacted last year, scaled back progressive features of state voting law, including same-day registration during early voting, out-of-precinct voting, preregistration for 16- and 17-year-olds and public financing for statewide judicial candidates. It also eliminated straight-ticket voting and, beginning in 2016, requires voters to present a photo ID.

The Justice Department, NAACP and other groups sued to block the law; the case will be tried next year. In the meantime, plaintiffs sought a preliminary injunction blocking it from taking effect. The bid was denied by a U.S. District Court. Last week, a U.S. Court of Appeals panel reversed the earlier decision in two respects: Same-day registration and out-of-precinct voting must be allowed, a 2-1 majority said.

Judge Diana Motz expressed reservations about the law but would not take such a dramatic action so close to an election, believing it would create hardships for election officials. The objection forms the basis of a state appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. …

Whether more or fewer people vote may have been the point of the legislation. Statistics show that black voters disproportionately utilize same-day registration and out-of-precinct voting, suggesting they would be harmed disproportionately by the elimination of those options.

The court noted the importance of applying “the totality of circumstances” to its analysis.

“By inspecting the different parts of House Bill 589 as if they existed in a vacuum, the district court failed to consider the sum of those parts and their cumulative effect on minority access to the ballot box,” Wynn wrote.

Also relevant is the history of racial discrimination in North Carolina’s voting past. …

The court examined impact and didn’t assign motives. It didn’t have to. The obvious intent of the voting reforms, as with gerrymandered redistricting, was to gain an electoral advantage for Republicans.

That is not always illegal. The ultimate fate of the law remains uncertain. But it’s fair, and possible, to delay implementation of parts of it while final resolution is pending.




Oct. 7

The Herald-Sun, Durham, North Carolina, on gay marriage:

The U. S. Supreme Court took a major if somewhat indirect step Monday toward ratifying what many in North Carolina have fought for - and many others have fought against.

The court, in declining to hear appeals from five appellate court decisions striking down same-sex marriage bans in five states, immediately opened the door to those marriages in those states.

Several other states, North Carolina included, are almost certainly impacted by the decision. Some states and localities immediately began issuing licenses for same-sex marriages. Others, including North Carolina, will not resolve the issue for several days.

The court’s move was a surprise to same-sex marriage proponents and opponents alike. They had expected the court to take up - either this session or next - one or more of those appellate decisions.

The court’s decision, however, makes it highly unlikely it will not eventually endorse the constitutional right to same-sex marriage - a position held by a rapidly growing number of Americans. Unfortunately, despite the widespread acceptance of same-sex unions in the Durham-Chapel Hill area, support has been growing far more slowly across the state.

While many state leaders have continued to vocally support the state’s ban, there were signs Monday that they are beginning to accept the arc of history on this issue.

Gov. Pat McCrory, speaking in Hickory, said shortly after the Supreme Court decision was announced that he would accept the ruling despite the state’s ban and his personal opposition to same-sex marriage. …

That’s in welcome contrast to some of McCrory’s Republican counterparts in other states. Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, for example, issued a statement saying he would defend the state’s constitution, even in the face of clear indications the highest court would declare that in defiance of the federal constitution. …

North Carolina’s Democratic attorney general, Roy Cooper, already had signaled he would not continue to defend our ban. His decision after the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down Virginia’s law struck us as prudent at the time, and is even more clearly so now.

A federal district court judge in Greensboro Monday signaled he was confident the Supreme Court decision would overturn North Carolina’s ban, but asked for briefs from both sides before ruling.

Such deliberation is prudent, but for thousands of our fellow citizens who have anxiously awaited the opportunity for legal marriage that has been denied them, the day cannot come too soon.



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