Judge in North Carolina gay marriage case rejects GOP lawmakers’ delay

North CarolinaSenate leader Phil Berger (left) and House Speaker Thom Tillis.

North CarolinaSenate leader Phil Berger (left) and House Speaker Thom Tillis.

RALEIGH, N.C. — A federal judge overseeing a pair of challenges to North Carolina‘s gay marriage ban denied a motion late Thursday from lawyers for Republican legislative leaders seeking more than a weeklong delay in the case.

North CarolinaSenate leader Phil Berger (left) and House Speaker Thom Tillis.

North Carolina Senate leader Phil Berger (left) and House Speaker Thom Tillis.

Chief U.S. District Court Judge William Osteen Jr. in Greensboro issued a ruling shooting down a request from House Speaker Thom Tillis and Senate leader Phil Berger that they be given until Oct. 17 to prepare arguments supporting their motion to intervene in the lawsuits.

Instead, Osteen gave them until noon Friday.

Osteen appears poised to strike down the marriage ban approved by North Carolina voters in 2012, issuing an order Wednesday lifting his stays and dismissing all prior motions. The GOP leaders are seeking to intervene after state Attorney General Roy Cooper, a Democrat, concluded all possible legal defenses had been exhausted.

“The intervenors fail to explain what facts that have not been denied are necessary to challenge the application of Bostic,” Osteen wrote, referring to the July ruling from the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals striking down Virginia‘s same-sex marriage ban. The appeals court in Richmond has jurisdiction over North Carolina, and Osteen is required to follow its ruling.

“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,” the judge ruled.

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Tillis and Berger filed their last-minute motions Friday afternoon as same-sex couples prepared to seek marriage licenses the moment the North Carolina ban is no more.

The Republicans hired California lawyer John C. Eastman, chairman of the conservative National Organization for Marriage. Eastman has agreed to forgo his first $10,000 in legal fees, but after that would be paid $400 an hour.

American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina legal director Chris Brook criticized the move by the GOP leaders as a waste of taxpayer funds.

“The legislature has had more than a year to intervene in this matter if they felt their interests were not adequately represented, and failed to do so,” said Brook, who represents nine same-sex couples seeking the freedom to marry and adopt children. “The legislature should quit playing politics by seeking to defend the indefensible.”

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