In North Carolina, gay marriage debate roars as Supreme Court decision looms

In North Carolina, gay marriage debate roars as Supreme Court decision looms (Image 1)

Spending time playing with the kids is an important part of any parent’s life.

“To us, it’s just normal, every day,” said Billy Traurig, who is married to his longtime partner. “It’s just like how I grew up as a kid except that we’ve got two dads instead of a mom and a dad.”

In October, Billy Traurig married his partner of 10 years, Todd Mozingo.

Traurig had already adopted their two children, 14-year-old Jovon and 3-year-old Avi.

But Mozingo couldn’t legally adopt them, too, until they were married.

“I would no longer be told that our children couldn’t see the doctor because I wasn’t the legal parent,” Mozingo said.

“It felt like reality. It felt like what we had been waiting for all these years.”

Traurig and Mozingo married on the first full day gay marriages were allowed in North Carolina. The pair joined hundreds of other couples who married in the days following rulings by two federal court judges that overturned a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage in North Carolina.

“We never even contemplated going somewhere else to get married,” Mozingo said.

They are married now, but they said the fight is far from over. Right now, their marriage would not be recognized if they traveled to 13 other states.

“We feel that it is time,” Mozingo said. “We feel confident that the Supreme Court will settle this issue down.”

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court will hear a case that challenges a lower court opinion upholding a gay marriage ban in Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky and Tennessee.

“The day of the arguments is going to be a very exciting day,” said Chapel Hill mayor Mark Kleinschmidt. Kleinschmidt, who is gay, is an attorney who represented plaintiffs in one of the cases that overturned the ban in North Carolina.

“Contemplating this day that I am confident is going to come, just a few years ago was just unthinkable,” Kleinschmidt said.

North Carolina’s Republican legislative leaders are fighting to uphold the marriage amendment.

Since the rulings by the federal courts, the state has appealed the decision.

As the Supreme Court decision looms, Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger said, “I’m hopeful that we’ll get a decision that will give us some certainty.”

North Carolina has been billed nearly $100,000 in its appeal. The latest invoice is dated Feb. 25 and the invoices reveal the state had been billed $98,854.12 by the middle of February

“We had set aside $300,000 out of the attorney general’s budget because the attorney general refused to defend the law,” Berger said.

Attorney General Roy Cooper, a Democrat, said he would not appeal the decision overturning the same-sex marriage ban after the federal courts ruled.

“Attorneys with our office vigorously defended North Carolina marriage law until it became clear that it would be overturned in court,” Cooper said. “We know that the General Assembly transferred $300,000 to a litigation reserve, but we do not have any information about how or if those funds have been spent. We don’t think it’s a good use of taxpayer money to keep arguing in court when federal judges have made the fate of North Carolina’s law clear.”

The Supreme Court decision is eagerly awaited by those on both sides of the issue.

The Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League of North Carolina, said, “I think many Christian leaders, as well as Christian organizations, have prepared their hearts for the worst.”

Creech said there is fear among the Christian community that the Supreme Court will rule in favor of allowing gay marriage.

“You can’t change something of such fundamental import as marriage without affecting every home,” Creech said.

“We are no longer a nation of the people, by the people and for the people. We’ve become a nation of the judges, by the judges and for the judges.”

Tami Fitzgerald, the executive director of the North Carolina Values Coalition, said, “We just don’t believe that the state, the Supreme Court or a federal judge has the right or the authority to redefine marriage.”

Fitzgerald questions the impact that same-sex unions would have on other aspects of marriage.

“If the structure and foundation for marriage as the union of one man and one woman is struck down, then there’s no foundation upon which a state could say polygamy is illegal,” Fitzgerald said.

But, Mozingo said, “That is an argument that people of other races and people who were attempting to marry interracially 50 years ago heard.”

“God made it so that children would have a father, that children would have a mother,” Creech said. “That’s natural, and that’s how it should be.”

Traurig, however, said, “We and a lot of other families have adopted children who don’t have a mother and father already.”

There is no timetable for a Supreme Court decision. Bill Marshall, a constitutional law professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said the Supreme Court likely will take as much time as it can before making a decision.

“The Supreme Court has a flair for the dramatic,” Marshall said. “They like to save their most dramatic cases until the last day of the term.”

That would mean a ruling in June.

Asked what the impact would be on North Carolina’s appeals, Berger said, “It depends on what the Supreme Court says and how they say it. We’ll go back, talk to the lawyers and make a decision as to what we’ll do.”

For Mozingo and Traurig, they’re hoping the ruling is one their family can celebrate.

”We’re optimistic, and as confident as we can be that the Supreme Court will come down on the side of marriage equality,” Traurig said.



Copyright 2015 WNCN. All rights reserved.

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