Some cheer Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage license

Published 12:10 am Saturday, June 27, 2015

Residents and leaders representing Rowan County had mixed reactions to Friday’s Supreme Court decision declaring same-sex marriage legal nationwide.

Months after the first same-sex couples in Rowan County legally received marriage licenses, the Supreme Court, by a 5-4 vote, ruled same-sex marriage is guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. Writing the court’s majority opinion, Justice Anthony Kennedy said: “The court now holds that same-sex couples may exercise the fundamental right to marry. No longer may this liberty be denied to them.”

Joining Kennedy in the majority ruling were Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor. The four dissenting justices were Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Chief Justice John Roberts. In its ruling, the court considered laws from Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee declaring marriage as being between a man and a woman.

The Supreme Court’s decision is a national confirmation of an October 2014 decision by two federal judges to strike a state ban on same-sex marriages. Same-sex couples in North Carolina can move to other states and have their marriage recognized. Likewise, North Carolina is now required to recognize licenses from other states.

The court’s ruling finally gives marriage equality to gay and lesbian couples that have waited for years to receive the same rights as straight couples, said Salisbury Pride President Tamara Sheffield.

“Love will always win,” Sheffield said. “It was only a few decades ago that we were saying the same exact thing about mixed-race couples. It’s two human beings wanted to be legitimized and not be treated with shame.”

It’s unclear exactly how many marriage licenses have been issued to same-sex couples since the October ruling. Rowan’s Register of Deeds office was unable to immediately provide statistics for same-sex marriage licenses. Staff said same-sex and traditional marriages are filed identically.

The Supreme Court’s rurling is just one step, Sheffield said. She said same-sex couples aren’t equal in other parts of society — namely workplace and housing situations — afforded to most other Americans.

Many, including dissenting justices and one of Rowan’s two congresswomen, weren’t cheering the decision.

In a statement posted on its website, the North Carolina Baptist State Convention said it continues to believe marriage is between one man and one woman.

“Even before today’s decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, we know that there are those who may disagree with us about how marriage is defined,” the Baptist state convention said. “As followers of Jesus Christ, we remain committed to God’s Word and a biblical view of marriage. At the same time, Jesus instructed us to love and minister to everyone in a spirit of grace and truth, including those who may disagree with us on this issue and on other issues, as well.”

States’ rights was an argument cited by many opponents of same sex marriage becoming legal.

“This Court is not a legislature,” Roberts wrote in his dissenting opinion. “Whether same-sex marriage is a good idea should be of no concern to us. Under the Constitution, judges have power to say what the law is, not what it should be.”

Shortly after the Supreme Court’s decision, U.S. Rep. Virignia Foxx, R-5, vowed to continue fighting to protect traditional marriage. She referenced North Carolina’s 2012 constitutional ammendment making same-sex marriage and civil unions unconsititional. It passed by a 61 percent to 38 percent count.

“This decision undermines the ability of states to set public policy within their borders as voters in North Carolina overwhelmingly did in 2012,” Foxx said in a news release. “I’m also extremely concerned about the threat this ruling poses to the conscience rights of people and organizations who believe that marriage is the union of one man and one woman.”

Sheffield contended the states’ rights argument wasn’t valid. Americans should have the same rights in any state, she said.

“We as United States citizens should be able to move from state to state and have the same rights,” she said. “Our rights are not state dictated.”

U.S. Rep. Alma Adams, D-12, joined same-sex couples and gay rights activists in applauding the court’s choice.

“No one deserves to be discriminated against; regardless of their sexual orientation, race, gender or socioeconomic status,” Adams said. “The LGBT rights movement has persevered to make remarkable progress, but there is still more work to be done to ensure we are combating discrimination in the workplace; stopping bullying in our schools; ending inequities in health care and eradicating homelessness among LGBT youth.”

North Carolina won’t be directly affected by the ruling, as judges already declared the state’s 2012 amendment unconstitutional. States affected by Friday’s ruling are Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, most of Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, Tennessee and Texas.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.