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State Atty General Not to Oppose ACLU in NC Marriage Lawsuit

by Emery P. D’Alesio
Saturday Jul 13, 2013

RALEIGH, N.C. - A legal attack against North Carolina's constitutional ban on same-sex marriages is taking shape after state Attorney General Roy Cooper's office said Friday he would not oppose adding that challenge to an existing lawsuit.

The ACLU and Cooper's office said Cooper won't fight the civil-rights organization expanding its lawsuit against a state law that says unmarried couples cannot be recognized as equal parents. Cooper, a Democrat, is defending the state in that lawsuit.

"We aren't opposing this motion because both of these matters will be litigated and combining them into one case will be more efficient," said Noelle Talley, Cooper's spokeswoman.

A federal judge overseeing the case in Greensboro also must approve expanding the adoption lawsuit to add the marriage amendment challenge.

Cooper is making a mistake, said NC Values Coalition executive director Tami Fitzgerald. She said the constitutional ban was favored by six in 10 North Carolina voters in May 2012.

"The constitutionality of the amendment is outside of the scope of a lawsuit regarding adoption by gay couples," said Fitzgerald, who helped direct a coalition of Christian and conservative groups that led North Carolina to become the 30th state to adopt such a constitutional ban.

The North Carolina chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union aims to build on a U.S. Supreme Court ruling two weeks ago that struck down a federal law blocking married same-sex couples from receiving the same benefits as heterosexual spouses. The court's majority said the federal law defining marriage as between one man and one woman interfered with the equal dignity of same-sex marriages in states that allowed them.

North Carolina's same-sex marriage ban similarly denies families the security of a legally recognized family unit, the state ACLU's legal director Chris Brook said. Marriage would allow same-sex couples to protect their children if one partner lacks health insurance, and prevent children from being removed from their home if something happened to the biological or legally recognized parent, Brook said.

The ACLU this week also filed a federal lawsuit in Pennsylvania challenging that state's same-sex marriage ban, and said it will do the same in Virginia. Federal court challenges to state same-sex marriage bans also are brewing in Nevada, Hawaii and Michigan. Same-sex couples in New Mexico and Arkansas also filed legal challenges to state laws last week.

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