The Freedom to Marry in North Carolina
Winning Marriage: October 13, 2014
Same-sex couples began marrying in North Carolina on October 13, 2014 after U.S. District Court Judge Max O. Cogburn ruled in favor of the freedom to marry in a federal legal case challenging the state’s anti-marriage laws. The ruling followed the United States Supreme Court’s October 6, 2014 decision to deny review of a pro-marriage order from the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals.
History and the Path to Victory:
- June 18, 1996: The North Carolina legislature passes a state statute restricting marriage to different-sex couples.
- May 8, 2012: Opponents of the freedom to marry in North Carolina push through Amendment 1, a constitutional amendment denying same-sex couples the freedom to marry and any other legal family status. The amendment cements clearly discriminatory language into the North Carolina Constitution.
- June 13, 2012: Same-sex couples and the American Civil Liberties Union file a federal legal case seeking the freedom to marry and adopt in North Carolina, Fisher-Borne v. Smith, as a challenge to Amendment One.
- 2012-2014: As Americans nationwide engage in conversations about why marriage matters, national and local advocates in North Carolina take strides toward increasing understanding of same-sex couples and their families.
- April 10, 2014: Polling in North Carolina tracks marked growth in support for the freedom to marry, reflecting the power of the national discussion of why marriage matters.
- April 28, 2014: A coalition of progressive religious groups, led by the Campaign for Southern Equality, file a federal legal case seeking the freedom to marry in North Carolina, General Synod of the United Church of Christ v. Cooper. In the same year, several other cases are filed, building momentum for marriage in the courts. Meet the plaintiffs and read the initial complaint in the General Synod case. Meet the plaintiffs and read the initial complaint in a separate case filed by the ACLU.
- July 28, 2014: Following a ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit in favor of the freedom to marry, North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper announces that he will not defend laws that prohibit same-sex couples from marrying, explaining that the laws are unconstitutional. Read the 4th Circuit ruling.
- October 6, 2014: The United States Supreme Court denies review of a federal legal case in which the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit ruled that denying same-sex couples the freedom to marry in Virginia is unconstitutional. The ruling creates a binding precedent throughout the circuit, including in North Carolina.
- October 13, 2014: U.S. District Court Judge Max O. Cogburn rules in the Campaign for Southern Equality's General Synod of the UCC v. Cooper case that North Carolina’s anti-marriage amendment is unconstitutional, bound by the precedent established by the 4th Circuit. Read the ruling in the General Synod case – and the Monday, October 16 ruling in separate cases filed by the ACLU. Same-sex couples begin marrying in North Carolina that afternoon in some counties, and couples marry statewide on Monday, October 16.
- June 26, 2015: The United States Supreme Court rules in favor of the freedom to marry, ending marriage discrimination across the country.
Groups That Actively Worked on Marriage
- Equality NC is a statewide advocacy organization that works to secure equal rights and justice for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender North Carolinians.
- The Campaign for Southern Equality is a national effort to assert the full humanity and equality of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in American life and to increase public support for LGBT rights. The Campaign for Southern Equality served as a plaintiff and coordinator of the General Synod legal case.
- The ACLU of North Carolina is a statewide chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, devoted to ensuring that all North Carolinians are protected from inequality. The ACLU served as counsel in two legal cases seeking the freedom to marry.
- Freedom to Marry was the campaign to win marriage for same-sex couples nationwide.