Editor’s Note: This article is the third in a three-part series discussing legal challenges to North Carolina’s “Amendment One,” which was passed in May 2012 and banned same-sex marriages in the state. You can read Part One and Part Two here.
The key political player in challenges to North Carolina’s same-sex marriage ban is Attorney General Roy Cooper, who has been serving in that position since his election in 2000. Despite his experience in the Attorney General role, Cooper has had a tumultuous time during the last few years balancing his personal ideology against North Carolina’s same-sex marriage ban, as well as other contested issues.
Despite Cooper’s personal views, he has consistently stated that he will uphold the laws of North Carolina, including Amendment One.
North Carolina’s Attorney General is an elected position that carries with it the awesome responsibility to serve the citizens of the state. Knowing his responsibilities, Cooper is on the record saying that he is a supporter of marriage equality. After the Amendment One vote was cast two years ago, questions began to mount in regards to Cooper’s personal views on the same-sex marriage issue. Despite Cooper’s personal views, he has consistently stated that he will uphold the laws of North Carolina, including Amendment One.
Cooper may take a step to further promote his ideas by running for Governor of North Carolina in 2016. In response to questions about whether he will seek the governship, Cooper has stated that, “It’s too early for me to make an official announcement . . . I am making plans though because I am deeply concerned about the direction of our state.” Cooper has also released attack ads that criticize the policies of current leaders in North Carolina, blaming the Republican majority in North Carolina’s General Assembly and current Governor Pat McCrory for problems in the state.
Yet, many believe that if Cooper runs for the governorship while the same-sex marriage ban is still being debated, he could use his platform to advocate for marriage equality and possibly push the issue to the tipping point.
Many supporters of same-sex marriage in North Carolina look to Cooper’s potential gubernatorial run as a sign of hope for a future change to the current same-sex marriage ban. Alternatively, these supporters are aware that changes to marriage equality may also be achieved through ongoing litigation. Cooper himself asked a judge to delay his ruling on a challenge to North Carolina’s same-sex marriage ban because of what the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit may rule on a case later this year. Yet, many believe that if Cooper runs for the governorship while the same-sex marriage ban is still being debated, he could use his platform to advocate for marriage equality and possibly push the issue to the tipping point.
It is yet to be determined whether or not Cooper will be the white knight that runs for governor and sways North Carolina’s policy in favor of marriage equality. There is also a good chance that Cooper’s beliefs on marriage equality may not affect a future gubernatorial race because of litigation that may resolve the issue at the state and appellate levels. Either way, Roy Cooper is in an ideal position to put pressure on current North Carolina politicians to change Amendment One.