North Carolina’s attorney general announced yesterday he would not continue defending his state’s traditional marriage laws after a federal appeals court struck down a similar statute in neighboring Virginia.
“Our attorneys have vigorously argued this case every step of the way,” Attorney General Roy Cooper, a Democrat, said during a press conference. “But the 4th Circuit has ruled and the 4th Circuit is clear, along with every federal court that has addressed this issue. Therefore, there are really no arguments left to be made.”
The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals covers the Carolinas, West Virginia, Maryland, and Virginia, where it struck down a constitutional amendment defining marriage as only between one man and one woman. It also struck down a law banning recognition for same-sex marriages performed in other states.
After Cooper’s announcement, South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson said he would continue to fight the attempt to overturn his state’s traditional marriage laws.
Unlike several Democrats serving as attorneys general in other states, Cooper said earlier this year he intended to defend North Carolina’s laws, even though he supports same-sex marriage. He insisted on Monday that he had done his job. Continuing to fight an issue the appeals court has already decided is futile, he said.
Based on the 4th Circuit’s ruling in the Virginia case, it is almost certain North Carolina’s law will be overturned as well, he told a room full of reporters. It’s time for North Carolina to “stop making arguments we will lose and instead move forward, knowing the ultimate resolution will likely come from the U.S. Supreme Court.”
Although Cooper said he didn’t expect same-sex marriages to begin in North Carolina any time soon, it’s not clear what will happen when the first case goes to court and presumably is decided in favor of the plaintiffs.
In May, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett decided not to appeal a lower court ruling against his state’s traditional marriage law, saying a challenge was “extremely unlikely to succeed.” Counties began issuing same-sex marriage licenses immediately, and the U.S. Supreme Court on July 9 rejected one clerk’s attempt to get the law reinstated.