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Monday, January 12, 2015

Dix Park: The Deal is Done

Posted by on Mon, Jan 12, 2015 at 2:36 PM

Gov. Pat McCrory and Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane were all smiles this afternoon as they announced that the state will sell the 308-acre Dorothea Dix Hospital tract to the city for $52 million. They announced the deal in a packed ballroom at the Governor's Mansion — to great applause.

McCrory said the sale and development of the land as a destination park will help Raleigh become the showcase state capital everyone in North Carolina should want. McFarlane called the deal "truly a win-win" for both sides and said the park will help spur economic development in the city and the region.

Update: Terms of the deal can be seen here.

A quick Q&A:

1) Is this a good deal for the city? Yes. The price tag is up there at $170,000 an acre, and the state reserved the right to keep Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) offices on the Dix campus for 25 years in one area and 10 years in another. But expect the state to move out faster. Meanwhile, the evolution of a park is a multi-generational activity, so the city need be in no great rush to evict DHHS as long as it is assured — as it is — that the state is going to vacate. Earlier offers by the state included what would've been a poison pill, with the state keeping its buildings and the high ground of the park for itself while selling the lower areas to the city. That didn't happen.

2) Is this a good deal for the state? Yes. In fact, it's a great deal for the state, which gets a major park for the capital city at no cost. Using this land for state offices is, first of all, shameful in light of the fact that the state closed the 150-year old Dix Hospital that was the reason for the campus in the first place; and second, it's about the most wasteful use of 308 acres of prime property that you could imagine. The $52 million won't make a big dent in state budget needs. McCrory promised it will be used for mental health programs, but even for that purpose, it's a drop in the bucket. Nonetheless, the state could've given the land away for the park and had a good deal. Getting $52 million is icing on the thing.

3) What happens next? A contract must be written. Then McCrory gets approval from the Council of State, which he controls, and McFarlane gets a sign off by the City Council, which voted 8-0 this morning to approve the deal as outlined. No contract was executed today. What the two leaders signed was a statement of the terms.

4) Where's DHHS going? Not clear. But McCrory emphasized that the Dix buildings it's in are old and expensive to maintain. The state may lease a headquarters building somewhere or build one, or it may lease or build more than one building. But modern office space should be better and cheaper than the moldy old buildings on Dix. As for where new buildings could go, there's room near the Capitol, there's room along New Bern Avenue, there's room on Blue Ridge Road using other state properties, there's room in South Raleigh, the choices are many.

5) What's the city have in mind for the park? Another excellent question. Many ideas have been floated, including carousels, an amphitheater, a botanical garden, open fields, walking trails, a hotel in the original hospital building and so on. Planners hired by the Dix Visionaries, a group of local business leaders, did a general schematic a few years ago. Raleigh has two major "passive' park areas now at the N.C. Museum of Art and at Umstead State Park. Dix is supposed to be an "active" place that's a draw for tourists, a so-called destination park that people come from miles around to see and enjoy. But what's in it? As McFarlane said, the whole community is now tasked with figuring that out.

6) Where's the $52 million coming from? The Raleigh City Council can simply borrow it by issuing notes against the city's credit. Or, it can go to the voters and ask for approval to issue general obligation bonds, on which interest rates would be lower — they'd cost the city a bit less, in other words. If there's a bond referendum, the terms of the deal are that it must pass in 2015 and the city must have its money by December 31.

7) Why is a park on this land a good idea? It is because a park will enhance the downtown area, which lacks open space. A park will enhance the streets immediately adjoining it, which are underused and prime territory for housing and commercial development. The park will be next to N.C. State's Centennial Campus, with many possible synergies, and it also adjoins the State Farmer's Market, which suggests many more cooperative possibilities. In short, this park is perfectly positioned for the long-term growth of Raleigh from small city to mid-sized metro and the hub of a dynamic Triangle region.

Gov. McCrory and Raleigh Mayor McFarlane

Monday, July 28, 2014

Updated: 4th Circuit strikes down Va. same-sex marriage ban; Cooper drops Amendment One defense

Posted by on Mon, Jul 28, 2014 at 2:28 PM

Breaking news 2: Attorney General Roy Cooper just finished a press conference. He said he's dropping his defense of Amendment One in the four N.C. cases brought by LGBT advocates. The 4th Circuit ruling is binding on N.C. judges, he says. So it's his obligation, if and when any of these cases moves forward — three are stayed currently, and the fourth has yet to be heard — to inform the judge as to what the law is now. And the law now, Cooper said, is that Amendment One is unconstitutional according to the binding Circuit Court decision.

"Our lawyers have vigorously defended North Carolina's marriage law, which is their job," Cooper said. Now, he added, "It's time to stop making arguments we will lose."

(I've copied his full statement below.)

The ultimately resolution on same-sex marriage rights will likely come from the United States Supreme Court, Cooper added, either by deciding the issue itself or by refusing to review the 4th Circuit and other federal court rulings that support a 14th Amendment right to equal marriage rights for LGBT persons.

It's likely that no same-sex marriages will be allowed in North Carolina, however, before the Supreme Court acts … or declines to act, Cooper added.

***

Breaking news: The three-judge panel of the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals split 2-1. The decision to strike down Virginia's ban on same-sex unions isn't effective immediately. When it does take effect — in a matter of days — it would seem to apply as well to North Carolina, which is within the 4th Circuit's appeals jurisdiction. The Virginia attorney general has already said he will not defend the state's ban and will instead side, in any further appeals by other parties, with the plaintiffs who challenged the ban.

Here's a link to the ruling: http://www.ca4.uscourts.gov/Opinions/Published/141167.P.pdf

And there's an excellent summary here, from Equality NC: http://equalitync.org/marriage/

Plus: Lyle Denniston, Another circuit rules for same-sex marriage, SCOTUSblog (Jul. 28, 2014, 3:03 PM), http://www.scotusblog.com/2014/07/another-circuit-court-rules-for-same-sex-marriage/

gaycoupleweddingcake.jpg
Also, there's a "Decision Day" celebration tonight at Motorco in Durham:

Equality North Carolina will be holding #DecisionDay at their #DecisionDay Hub at Motorco in Durham, NC, to get engaged with the important work of learning and sharing the Bostic results and impact, next steps, and how you can help build the movement for marriage here at home. 6:30pm, y'all!

North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper has thus far defended Amendment One, our state's ban, though he has said he personally opposes it. He has a decision to make whether to appeal the 4th Circuit's ruling on behalf of the state. Whether he does or he doesn't, Amendment One's Republican sponsors almost certainly will appeal and seek to have the ruling stayed, at least as far as its effect on North Carolina.

That's my quick take.

(Updating this: Someone wrote to question whether Cooper could appeal a case involving a Virginia law. I should've said that he has a decision to make whether to join an appeal if there is one coming from Virginia, as there almost certainly will be. Even if there isn't any appeal, Cooper is defending the North Carolina law (Amendment One and an anti-LGBT marriage statute) in separate cases to which this Circuit Court ruling would apply. A question is whether Cooper will now say that Amendment one is indefensible in light of the 4th Circuit's ruling or, alternatively, continue to defend it if the ruling is appealed and/or stayed. I've sent an email to Cooper's office asking for his reaction to the decision. I'll share any response that comes.)

This is a statement from Freedom to Marry, a pro-LGBT rights group:

4th Circuit Court of Appeals Strikes Down Virginia Marriage Ban

New York — Today the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond ruled in favor of same-sex couples’ freedom to marry, upholding a lower court’s February decision that found Virginia’s marriage ban unconstitutional.

Evan Wolfson, president of Freedom to Marry, released the following statement:

"It was in a case out of Virginia that the Supreme Court ended race discrimination in marriage. And today, in another Virginia marriage case, a federal circuit court ruled against discrimination in marriage, affirming the freedom to marry for loving and committed gay couples. The Fourth Circuit’s ruling echoes what over 25 other federal and state courts have held: same-sex couples deserve the dignity of marriage, and anti-marriage laws are indefensible. Every day of denial is a day of injustice and tangible harms. It’s time for the Supreme Court to bring the country to national resolution and secure the freedom to marry for all.”

Same-sex couples can marry in 19 states and the District of Columbia, meaning 44% of Americans live in states where gay couples share in the freedom to marry. Recent polling by the Washington Post/ABC News shows 59% of Americans support marriage, including a majority of young evangelicals and Republicans under 45 in other polls.

In total, 29 federal and state rulings in recent months have struck down state bans on marriage for same-sex couples.

Here's the text of Cooper's opening statement, sent by his office:

Today the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals told us that Virginia’s marriage law is unconstitutional. The 4th Circuit has jurisdiction over the federal courts in North Carolina.

Currently, there are 4 cases in North Carolina challenging our state’s marriage law, which is similar to Virginia’s.

Our attorneys have vigorously defended North Carolina marriage law, which is their job. But today we know our law almost surely will be overturned as well. Simply put, it is time to stop making arguments we will lose and instead move forward, knowing that the ultimate resolution will likely come from the US Supreme Court.

This ruling today doesn’t mean marriages in North Carolina can start right away because no judge has ruled on North Carolina’s law. However, it does predict our law will be struck down.

So here is what we expect will happen next:

• Plaintiffs challenging the North Carolina marriage law in one or more of these 4 pending cases probably will ask federal judges to start proceedings, 3 of which are currently stayed.
• If any of the judges agree to begin proceedings, we believe those judges will be bound by today’s 4th Circuit opinion, and we believe they will be bound to find North Carolina’s marriage law unconstitutional.
• Those rulings themselves will likely not be given immediate affect because of the likelihood that the 4th Circuit’s decision will be stayed and because the judges in North Carolina will likely stay them as well.
• Finally, it is likely that no valid same-sex marriages can occur in North Carolina until the US Supreme Court either turns down the case on appeal or ultimately decides the issue.

Here’s how we got here. Last year the United States Supreme Court in US v. Windsor held that the federal part of the Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional at the federal level. They left the question of state marriage laws unanswered but they did give some guidance.

Since the Windsor case, 14 federal district court judges in addition to the 10th Circuit and now the 4th Circuit Courts of Appeal have answered that question. They all decided that marriage is a fundamental constitutional right and that state laws banning it are unconstitutional. The 10 state high courts that have considered this question have also all found their own state’s marriage laws unconstitutional.

Today’s 4th Circuit decision is similar.

After reviewing the 4th Circuit decision and consulting with attorneys here, I have concluded that the State of North Carolina will not oppose the cases moving forward. In addition, the State of North Carolina will acknowledge the 4th Circuit opinion that marriage is a fundamental right and that our office believes that the judges are bound by this 4th Circuit decision.

In all these cases challenging state marriage laws, our office along with other attorneys general and state attorneys across the country have made about every legal argument imaginable. Since the US Supreme Court ruled in the Windsor case, all the federal courts have rejected these arguments each and every time. So it’s time for the State of North Carolina to stop making them.


Renee Ellmers-Clay Aiken election campaign: Take one down, pass it around

Posted by on Mon, Jul 28, 2014 at 1:46 PM

100, 99 … countdown to Election Day

It's July — still — and no time to be thinking about elections, which aren't until —

Bzzzt. My mailbox is overflowing with reminders that just 100 days remain … no, now it's 99 days … until Nov. 4, Election Day. Y'ouch.

So, let's begin our election season with Renee Ellmers, Republican incumbent, versus Clay Aiken, Democratic challenger, for the U.S. House of Representatives, 2nd District of N.C.

Remember the House? Hasn't done anything in years except try to repeal Obamacare and, now, get ready to sue President Obama. Is this where the term "clown car" came from?

In recent days, Congresswoman Ellmers made some news when she told a Republican audience that her mostly male political colleagues, when discussing policy questions, should "bring it down to a woman's level" if they want to be understood.

Somewhere in there was a point, I think. Although Ellmers delivered it with what I'm afraid is her all-too-common incoherence. More on this below.

Wednesday, 6-8 pm, Southland Ballroom
  • Wednesday, 6-8 pm, Southland Ballroom
Meanwhile, Clay Aiken, for whom I would undoubtedly vote, pollsters, "if the election were held today," is holding his own against Ellmers in terms of fundraising. He may — may — give her a run for her money in November, so to speak, notwithstanding the fact that the 2nd District is heavily gerrymandered in favor of the Republican candidate.

Aiken is putting together three of my favorite things in Raleigh Wednesday night at a fundraiser. One, it's at Southland Ballroom, which has replaced the Berkeley Cafe on my list of best music halls in Raleigh following the latter's decimation. Two, it features the Red Clay Ramblers, who will perform. I definitely :) them. Three, it's Clay Aiken, and as I've already explained, I lost all objectivity re: Clay when he was on "American Idol."

I also think he's acquitted himself well as a candidate thus far.

***

On the fundraising front, Ellmers has raised more than $1.3 million since her last election campaign and, as of the latest report on June 30, retained $412,000 in cash on hand. She spent some money fending off a primary challenge this year.

Aiken, who entered the campaign just six months ago, has raised $686,000 and, as of June 30, had $209,000 cash on hand. The Aiken campaign has made much of the fact that he outraised Ellmers in the April-June period and that most of his money has come from individual contributors as opposed to her reliance on money from special interest and political committees. As The News & Observer reported it:

Aiken, who lives in Cary, has received almost $687,000 since he jumped into the race near the beginning of the year. Ellmers, of Dunn, has another year of fundraising to her advantage and reports receiving $1.3 million between January 2013 and June 2014.

Almost $1 million of Ellmers’ money comes from political committees and $300,000 from individuals during that year-and-a-half span. Aiken has brought in almost $590,000 from individuals — many from other states — this year, and just $21,000 from committees.

As for Ellmers' ill-chosen remarks about women voters, I think what she was trying to say is that politicians too often talk about issues only in terms of numbers in a budget or bars on a graph, and they fail to relate what they're saying to the impact of a political decision on actual people. I think, further, Ellmers was trying to say that male politicians are more guilty of this than female politicians, and that women voters — because they're more likely to be "on the ground" running family budgets and raising children — are especially interested in whether what the politicians intend will address their needs.

I'd say that's not only true, it's an important message for Republicans, who are fixated on the size of the federal debt as if "ooh, $17 trillion" has some intrinsic (scary) importance — instead of being, as it is, a figure that may or may not be too large, or is perhaps not large enough, given the size of the national economy (also about $17 trillion) and our collective need for investments in education, health, infrastructure, etc.

Also true is that campaign advertising is a cesspool of lies and half-truths. If candidates — now I'm talking about Democrats — used their ads to explain issues and the need for such investments, and made the case to voters that money spent on public programs will boost the economy, create jobs and improve lives …

In a mid-term election, half or more of eligible adults will not vote. Given what they hear from candidates, why should they?

If that's what Ellmers meant to say, I'm with her.

But actually, it sounds more like what Aiken is saying.

Here's a thought: Aiken is challenging Ellmers to debate him.

That's an excellent idea — if they debate, she can explain for herself what she means, and so can he.

  • Pin It
    99 days until Nov. 4 Election Day. Important elections ahead, and tomorrow it'll be 98 days.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

State shuts down Sen. Thom ("I call them Moron Mondays") Goolsby's investment biz.

Posted by on Thu, May 22, 2014 at 12:14 PM

In the "Yes, We Did See That Coming" category, Sen. Thom Goolsby, a Wilmington Republican, got whacked today by the N.C. Secretary of State's office for misleading investors. Goolsby and his investment advisory firm in Wilmington were put out of business.

Sen. Thom Goolsby
  • Sen. Thom Goolsby
As part of a Final Consent Order, Goolsby and his partner in the firm were personally stripped of their status as registered investment advisors and told not to try it again for a minimum of 10 years.

For the rest of the year, Goolsby remains in the Senate, though he is not running for re-election in November. He did, however, threaten — er, say — that he'd be seeking "other opportunities to serve in the future." His fellow Republican, Senate President Phil Berger, called Goolsby the epitome of a public servant, which has the unfortunate ring of truth these days for the all-powerful GOP. A lawyer, Goolsby had his eye on being state attorney general, I've heard.

Goolsby is remembered in these parts for his denunciation of Moral Monday participants. He called them "Moron Mondays." He perhaps thought his clients in Wilmington were morons, too, because he lured them in with a classic "can't go wrong" investment strategy worthy of P.T. Barnum.

As described by the Secretary of State:

The order was issued after Secretary of State Division of Securities investigators found that the company and the two investment advisers marketed an investment strategy they termed the “10-20-50 Plan.” This plan supposedly invested clients’ money in a way where investments losing more than 10 percent would be sold to prevent further loss, investments earning more than 20 percent would be sold to capture the gains, and no more than 50 percent of the clients’ accounts would be invested in securities at any one time.

Investigators determined that this plan frequently was not followed, resulting in greater client losses than if failing investments had been sold once they suffered a 10 percent loss. Investigators also found clients were not told their money was being invested in a way that was different than being advertised.

Here's the complete press release from the Secretary of State's office:

consentorder.pdf

***

  • Pin It
    In a consent order, Goolsby and his partner are stripped of their licenses to be investment advisers because they misled clients.

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Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Aiken, Cleary, win Democratic congressional primaries in Districts 2, 13

Posted by on Wed, May 7, 2014 at 1:11 AM

Whoa, the Democratic primary in U.S. House District 2 was a squeaker, mainly because Fayetteville's Toni Morris captured almost 20 percent of the votes — very unexpected. That left Clay Aiken and Keith Crisco with little margin for error as they 1) tried to reach the 40 percent threshold for victory, and 2) tried to beat each other.

With all the precincts in, Aiken finished with 40.8 percent to Crisco's 39.5, making Aiken the outright, if narrow, victor. (Crisco can call for a recount, of course.)

Aiken, if he holds onto his lead, will face Republican Congresswoman Renee Ellmers, who defeated tea-party challenger Frank Roche. Ellmers will be a heavy favorite barring a Democratic tidal wave, but Aiken has come from behind before — in his run for "American Idol" against the heavily favored Ruben Studdard. (Who, in case you missed it, backed Aiken for Congress.)

In U.S. House District 13, Brenda Cleary won the Democratic nomination easily against Viginia Conlon and Ron Sanyal. Cleary is given little chance of unseating Republican Congressman George Holding.

If you're counting at home, that's two-for-two for Indy-endorsed Democrats in districts containing part of Raleigh. For both Aiken and Cleary, however, the fact that these districts are drawn to be Republican strongholds leaves each with a mountain to climb.

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Tillis vs. Hagan: A U.S. Senate race about the General Assembly?

Posted by on Wed, May 7, 2014 at 12:44 AM

Imagine a great Republican candidate to go against U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan this fall. H/she is a business owner. Or a doctor. Self-made, anyway. A diplomat would be great — whatever happened to Jim Cain?

The point is, you want a Republican candidate who personifies national issues — the economy, jobs, trade, the cost of health care — and can tell you what's wrong with Wall Street. Best case, your candidate's been to Libya and visited Benghazi. (I'm joking about Libya — I think.)

At any rate, h/she's conservative, but in a non-threatening way that says "sensible," not a nut or an ass. And with no voting record, please.

Now consider Thom Tillis. The N.C. House speaker defeated seven opponents — well, two, plus five other candidates who got almost no votes among them — to win the Republican Senate nomination outright with 46 percent of the vote.

Nothing about Tillis says national. Or business. No, he's a state-level pol whose record is all about cuts to public school funding, the UNC system and teachers' pay. It's about tax cuts for corporations whether they create jobs in North Carolina or not. And about cutting off unemployment benefits for people who've lost their jobs through no fault of their own, and keeping Medicaid away from the working poor.

In short, it's about the General Assembly's crazy record of refusing to do at the state level the very things that Republicans oppose at the federal level because they're supposed to be state prerogatives.

American Bridge detailed the negatives against Tillis tonight in a mere 6,464 words. Read 'em and, if you're a Republican, remind yourself why Tillis is your guy?

Sen. Hagan might've been challenged by a Republican questioning her support of Obama initiatives in Washington. Instead, she'll face a Republican who'll be forced to defend his legislature's record of undermining, and underfunding, the state's economy and institutions.

Instead of being on defense, in other words, Hagan can go on offense against the General Assembly's extremely unpopular record.

Sure, she'd rather have run against a right-wing whacker like Greg Brannon, who finished a not very close second to Tillis. But running against Tillis is almost as good for her, given what the GOP might've served up instead — but didn't.

  • Pin It
    In Thom Tillis, Republicans have a candidate for national office whose record screams bad state legislator. Lucky for Kay Hagan.

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Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Kentucky Attorney General is 7th who won't defend his state's same-sex marriage ban

Posted by on Wed, Mar 5, 2014 at 10:56 AM

Democrat Jack Conway, Kentucky's elected attorney general and a prospective candidate for governor next year, tells Talking Points Memo why he cannot defend his state's law banning recognition of same-sex marriages:

He said he came around "over the last few years" after conversations with friends in the gay community, and after thinking about how his two daughters would come to view his decision.

"I thought long and hard. I thought about the arc of history," he said. "I thought about the fact that at one time in this country we discriminated against women. At one time we discriminated against African-Americans and people of color. At one time we discriminated against those with disabilities. This is the last minority group in this country that a significant portion of our population thinks it's OK to still discriminate against in any way. And I didn't think that was right."

Conway split with Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear, who intends to defend the ban without the AG.

Six other state attorneys general have taken the same position that, in light of the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in the Windsor case, their states' anti-gay marriage laws are unconstitutional and should not be defended.

Conway makes seven.

His announcement was seen as a political risk given the conservative politics of his state.

Barring a sudden and swift change in statewide public opinion, the decision poses potential dangers for the attorney general, who has served in the role since 2008, and told TPM he intends to run for governor in 2015 once Beshear maxes out his two terms.

"My wife Elizabeth knew what I wanted to do in my heart," he said. "And at one point she pulled me aside and said 'Jack, you stink when you're not authentic.' And at that point I knew it might cost me politically but I needed to ... make a decision I could be proud of."

North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper, also a Democrat and also a prospective candidate for governor in 2016, is holding to a different view. Cooper says it's his duty to defend North Carolina's ban, though he doesn't agree with it, and he continues to defend its constitutionality against a challenge in federal court.

The N.C. ban, already a law, was added to the state constitution in 2012 with the passage of Amendment One. The amendment, a Republican measure from the General Assembly, was approved by voters during a May primary election.

  • Pin It
    Jack Conway, a Democrat, plans to run for governor next year. "I thought about the arc of history," he said.

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Friday, February 21, 2014

Oregon's AG is 6th, so far, who refuses to defend state's same-sex marriage ban

Posted by on Fri, Feb 21, 2014 at 2:12 PM

Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum: "Because we cannot identify a valid reason for the state to prevent the couples who have filed these lawsuits from marrying in Oregon, we find ourselves unable to stand before [U.S. District Court] Judge [Michael] McShane to defend the state's prohibition against marriages between two men or two women."

Oregon's ban was passed by voters in 2004. More on Rosenblum's decision here.

The Washington Post has a roundup of statements made by the six — so far — attorneys general who've taken similar positions that such bans are unconstitutional in light of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in the Windsor case.

They include Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring a month ago.

They do not include North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper.

***

Cooper, who continues to defend our state's same-sex marriage ban — Amendment One — in court even though he says he personally favors marriage equality, has been quoted as saying he can't get into whether the laws he's defending are constitutional or not:

“You’re not going to hear me talk about the legality or constitutionality of any of these statutes that are under litigation. I think it’s important for me not to do that,” Cooper said before addressing a Democratic Party function in Greensboro. “However, I will engage in public policy discussions and I want to do that.”

Cooper is campaigning as an all-but-declared candidate for the Democratic nomination for governor in 2016.

Cooper has also said: " [W]hen legal arguments exist to defend a law, it is the duty of the Office of the Attorney General under North Carolina law to make those arguments in court."

Notice that Cooper's position is that he'll defend a law if a "legal" argument can be made for it. Has there ever been a law for which a "legal" argument could not be made?

Oregon AG Rosenblum's standard is that she won't defend a law without a "valid" argument.

The Campaign for Southern Equality, a pro-LGBT rights group, has called on Cooper to cease his defense of Amendment One.

That doesn't mean Amendment One would go undefended if Cooper dropped it — its Republican backers in the General Assembly made it clear that they have lawyers ready to defend Amendment One if Cooper doesn't.

Disclosure: Ellen Rosenblum is married to Richard Meeker, a co-owner of the INDY.

  • Pin It
    North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper continues his "legal" defense of Amendment One, however.

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Friday, January 24, 2014

Pro-LGBT group calls on Roy Cooper to drop Amendment One defense

Posted by on Fri, Jan 24, 2014 at 3:03 PM

In a post yesterday, I noted that as Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring was stepping up on the issue of same-sex marriage rights, North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper was shrinking from an important immigrant rights issue — thus adding to Cooper's list of disappointing legal positions, including his defense of racial gerrymandering, of voter-suppression legislation, of anti-choice legislation and of Amendment One.

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Cooper's defense of Amendment One, the North Carolina ban on same-sex marriages, is the opposite of what Herring's doing. Herring announced that he will not defend Virginia's statutory ban in court; he will argue instead that it is unconstitutional In light of the U.S. Supreme Court decision in the Windsor case, which struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

Today, the Campaign for Southern Equality, a pro-LGBT rights group, called on Cooper to follow Herring's lead and drop his opposition to a lawsuit which challenges the constitutionality of Amendment One.

The group's statement:


Attorney General Cooper should choose same course of action as Virginia Attorney General Herring

Asheville, N.C. (January 24, 2014) — Yesterday Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring announced that his office will cease to defend Virginia’s ban against same-sex marriage in a federal lawsuit that is progressing through the courts.

The Asheville Citizen-Times reported that NC Attorney General Roy Cooper will continue to defend Amendment One:

“Cooper said today North Carolina should change its law to allow marriage equality and he believes ‘basic fairness eventually will prevail. However, when legal arguments exist to defend a law, it is the duty of the Office of the Attorney General under North Carolina law to make those arguments in court,’ he said in a written statement.”

“I am hopeful that NC Attorney General Cooper will take the same course of action as Virginia Attorney General Herring and choose not to defend Amendment One, an unjust law that will ultimately be ruled unconstitutional,” says Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, Executive Director of the Campaign for Southern Equality. “Every day that Amendment One remains on the books, same-sex families in North Carolina are harmed because they are denied fundamental rights and protections. We’re calling for full rights and protections under the law immediately for LGBT people. Patience ceases to be a virtue when people are suffering.”

Recent actions by the North Carolina Department of Revenue and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of NC clearly demonstrate Amendment One’s negative impacts on North Carolina families.

Directive PD-13-1 issued by the North Carolina Department of Revenue states that legally married same-sex couples in North Carolina must file their state taxes separately, despite the fact that they will file federal taxes jointly. Additionally Blue Cross and Blue Shield of NC does not offer family coverage plans to legally married same-sex couples due to Amendment One. As a result, legally-married gay couples who have enrolled in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) Marketplace as married have had their insurance plans cancelled by Blue Cross and Blue Shield.

NC Department of Revenue directive can be found at: http://www.dornc.com/practitioner/individual/directives/pd-13-1.pdf

Blue Cross and Blue Shield statement can be found at:
http://goqnotes.com/27126/n-c-blue-cross-doesnt-recognize-married-gay-couples-yet/

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Thursday, January 23, 2014

Today: Virginia's AG goes bold, unlike our AG Roy Cooper

Posted by on Thu, Jan 23, 2014 at 3:54 PM

It can't be a good day for N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper, who's all but declared his candidacy for governor in 2016.

On the same day that Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, also a Democrat, announced that he will not defend Virginia's ban on same-sex marriages because he's convinced it's unconstitutional — a courageous stand — Cooper's office released a disappointing and weakly reasoned advisory opinion on immigrants' rights.

Attorney General Roy Cooper
  • Attorney General Roy Cooper
The opinion: Young immigrants who are legal residents of North Carolina because of their protected status under federal law are nonetheless not entitled to in-state tuition rates on the same basis as other legal residents.

Chalk up a plus for the recently elected Herring, who is already showing some backbone and a willingness to stand up for constitutional rights.

Mark down a minus for Cooper — another one.

I've written previously about Cooper's defense of the Republicans' voter-suppression law (House Bill 589), which the NAACP and others have challenged as unconstitutional. It's not clear whether Cooper thinks it's unconstitutional, too, but is defending it anyway; or if he thinks it doesn't violate the Constitution.

Similarly, Cooper is also defending the Republicans' racial gerrymandering of congressional and legislative districts — raising the same question about Cooper's legal reasoning.

Also today, Cooper was reported to be on the fence as to whether to continue to defend the Republicans' ultrasound-with-lectures law after it was struck down by a federal judge as violating a woman's right to choose whether to terminate her pregnancy. At the trial court level, Cooper's office argued that the ultrasound law did not violate constitutional rights.

***

Here's what Herring said, in part, about the Virginia law and his refusal to defend it:

"After thorough legal review, I have now concluded that Virginia's ban on marriage between same sex couples violates the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution on two grounds: marriage is a fundamental right being denied to some Virginians, and the ban unlawfully discriminates on the basis of both sexual orientation and gender," Herring said.

Pretty straightforward. There's more on Herring's position here.

It's worth noting that the same issues have been raised in court against North Carolina's ban on same-sex unions. Cooper, unlike Herring, is defending our state's ban, arguing in court that it does not violate the Fourteenth Amendment.

Oh?

Outside of court, Cooper has given speeches declaring his support for same-sex marriage rights. In court, he argues against them.

***

The advisory letter from Cooper's office today, written to a legislator, was on the question of whether undocumented immigrants who were brought to this country as children by their parents, and who are now here legally as a result of the Obama Administration's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy, should qualify for in-state tuition at North Carolina's public universities and community colleges.

These are the so-called DREAM Team immigrants who've grown up in the U.S. and graduated from North Carolina high schools. According to the Cooper-issued opinion, "an individual is eligible for in-state tuition in North Carolina … if he or she is a legal resident who is domiciled in the State of North Carolina and who has maintained legal residence in the State for at least 12 months…." This statement is attributed to "North Carolina General Statutes."

Further, the opinion says, the DREAM Team children, now young adults, are legal residents because of their protected status under DACA. Only instead of calling them legal residents, the opinion chooses to say instead that they are "legally or lawfully present" in North Carolina — as if that might mean something different.

Such DACA-protected immigrants were entitled to North Carolina drivers' licenses, pursuant to a Cooper opinion issued a year ago to the state Division of Motor Vehicles.

But they're not entitled to in-state tuition, according to this Cooper-issued opinion.

Why?

That's not clear, at least not from this advisory opinion. All it says is that federal law (8 U.S.C Section 1621) doesn't require that DACA-status individuals be eligible for in-state tuition "unless a specific state statute provides otherwise." But weren't we just told that "North Carolina General Statutes" call for in-state tuition for all "legal residents?"

I'm not a lawyer, but i'm thinking that there's an equal protection argument here, you know, under the Fourteenth Amendment:

"No State shall … deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."

Anyway, this legal brief — and it's very brief — ends with a disclaimer from its authors, two special deputy attorneys general named Alexander Peters and Kimberly Potter. It's "an advisory letter only," they write. "It has not been reviewed or approved in accordance with the procedures for issuing an Attorney General's opinion."

In other words, Attorney General Cooper was asked to issue an opinion about this DREAM Team issue and, well, he sort-of did, but officially he didn't.

What he definitely didn't do, I'd say, is issue an opinion spelling out in understandable terms why a discriminatory state statute isn't discriminatory.

***

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The mayor can and should point to Dix Park as a tangible accomplishment that will have lasting ramifications for Raleigh. …

by Protect Falls on McFarlane fundraiser kicks off 2015 Raleigh election year (Citizen)

As is Chavis Park, Doug. But both are relatively small compared to Umstead, NCMA and, when it happens, Dix Park.

by Bob Geary, INDY Opinion Columnist on Dix Park: The Deal is Done (Citizen)

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