Couple Scott Lindsley, center, and Joey Hewell, right, have camped out for two days to receive their marriage license at the Mecklenburg County Register of Deeds.

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Republican leaders in North Carolina submitted their motion to intervene in two same-sex marriage cases shortly after 4 p.m., meeting a federal judge’s 5 p.m. deadline. Meanwhile couples and advocates who hoped for a final order on legal same-sex marriages were left disappointed. An order could come Friday morning.

U.S. District Court Judge WIlliam Osteen released his own order shortly after 3 p.m., dismissing all defendants with the exception of Attorney General Roy Cooper, who has already said he will no longer defend the anti-LGBT constitutional amendment passed by voters in May 2012. In addition, the judge asked any interested parties to submit any further motions for relief.

North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis and Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger had said they would intervene in the case, hiring a Charlotte attorney and, apparently, conservative legal scholar and National Organization for Marriage chair John Eastman to represent the state on their behalf.

Eastman, chairman of the anti-LGBT National Organization for Marriage, is listed as counsel on Tillis’ and Berger’s motion. Additionally, an attorney with ActRight Legal Foundation, established by National Organization for Marriage co-founder Brian Brown, is also listed representing the two GOP leaders.

The National Organization for Marriage has been a leading proponent of anti-gay marriage laws across the country. The group was the single largest donor in the campaign to pass North Carolina’s anti-gay marriage ban, contributing $427,590 to the campaign in 2012.

Equality North Carolina, the statewide LGBT advocacy group, has condemned Republican leaders’ efforts to intervene in the case and called the hiring of Eastman “outrageous.”

“There was a budget shortfall that cost schools money, but that Speaker Tillis has money from the taxpayers of North Carolina to send to a special interest outside of the state is abhorrent,” Equality NC Executive Director Chris Sgro told qnotes. “I am certain voters will hold him accountable in the November election in his race and I am certain voters will hold Senator Berger’s caucus accountable in November as well.”

Sgro also encouraged moderate Republican legislators to speak out.

“I call on moderate Republican members of the caucus to stand up and say where they are on this misuse of taxpayer dollars,” he said.

Couples still wait for legal marriages

Equality advocates and couples across the state had hoped Osteen would issue an order opening legal marriage to same-sex couples today. Some were hopeful right up to the last minute on Thursday. In Guilford County, the register of deeds office stayed open a few minutes late waiting on a last-minute court order.

In Charlotte, Mecklenburg County Register of Deeds J. David Granberry also thought a late-breaking order could be possible. He was prepared to begin processing marriage licenses if an order came in quickly. Two same-sex couples had already begun filling out marriage license applications, waiting for an order so Granberry could complete and process them.

Several minutes after 5 p.m., no such order had yet come, and Granberry’s office closed.

Scott Lindsley, 45, and Joey Hewell, 34, had been camped out at the register of deeds office nearly all day on Wednesday. They came back early Thursday morning in hopes of completing the marriage license application Granberry let them start  on Wednesday.

The couple, together for nearly 13 years, had no such luck on Thursday. The two said they aren’t discouraged.

“I feel like it’s okay. I’m not too upset about it,” said Hewell. “I know it’s going to happen and that’s the most important part. We’ll be here bright and early in the morning. I expect something to happen in the morning and I expect it to be great news for every gay couple in North Carolina.”

GOP extension denied

In an additional motion filed late Thursday afternoon, Tillis’ and Berger’s attorneys asked Osteen to give them eight additional days — up to Oct. 17 — to submit arguments against legalizing same-sex marriage.

They said they need the time to compile their arguments and submit them to the court.

Late on Thursday evening, Osteen denied their request.

“In light of the stage of this litigation, and the arguments and positions previously asserted by both parties to this case, this court does not find good cause to extend the time for filing a proposed Answer,” Osteen’s order read.

Additionally, they said Tillis and Berger are intervening because Attorney General Roy Cooper can no longer be trusted to defend the state. Cooper dropped defense of the amendment when the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned Virginia’s similar ban. He said the Fourth Circuit’s decision will be binding in North Carolina, especially after the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on Monday not to hear the appeal from Virginia and several other states.

Ruling seemed imminent

Observers and advocates believed Osteen seemed poised to file an order today, finally striking down North Carolina’s anti-LGBT constitutional ban.

The news sent couples like Lindsley and Hewell to registers of deeds offices across the state.

News station WGHP had reported Thursday morning that couples had already begun to gather at the Guilford County Register of Deeds office, where Register Jeff Thigpen said Osteen seemed prepared to rule.

Thigpen told the station Osteen worked late into the evening on Wednesday, preparing to file the proper paperwork today.

“Assuming we get the judicial order and once we verify it, we expect to immediately get new marriage forms from Raleigh — and immediately begin accepting same-sex marriage applications and issuing licenses,” Thigpen said Thursday morning.

Even with the new motions, Osteen could still issue an order in the case, effectively ignoring or actively denying the state GOP’s motion to intervene.

On Wednesday, Osteen lifted stays putting the two cases in his court on pause. He had stayed the cases pending the outcome of the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ July ruling on Virginia’s similar ban. On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the appeal from that case and several others, essentially paving the way for legal same-sex marriages in North Carolina.

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Matt Comer previously served as editor from October 2007 through August 2015 and as a staff writer afterward in 2016.

One reply on “Tillis, Berger ask judge to let them intervene in marriage cases”

  1. Tillis spend that money, it’s not yours and this means you are stealing tax payers money for a personal vendetta. What kind of Senator would you make? I would guess, tapping on the bathroom floor in an Airport. or being caught up in some kind of sex scandal.

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