NC Bill To Defy Supreme Court On Marriage Reflects Broader Right-Wing Nullification Campaign

North Carolina state Rep. Larry Pittman

A group of Republican legislators in North Carolina introduced a bill on Tuesday calling on the state to defy the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015 Obergefell ruling on marriage equality. The legislation would have the General Assembly declare that the Supreme Court’s decision “is null and void in the State of North Carolina.” The bill asserts that the Supreme Court “overstepped its constitutional bounds” and “also exceeds the authority of the Court relative to the decree of Almighty God that ‘a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.’” North Carolina voters passed a constitutional amendment banning marriage for same-sex couples in 2012.

State Reps. Larry Pittman, Michael Speciale and Carl Ford are listed as the bill’s primary sponsors; one news report adds Mike Clampitt to the list of supporters, while another adds Mark Brody.  WHCL in Chapel Hill was among the outlets noting that the bill is unlikely to pass, adding this tidbit: “Two of the three legislators who sponsored HB780 also filed a bill earlier this year seeking to remove the provision from North Carolina’s constitution that would prevent the state from seceding.”  (That bill was introduced by Pittman, Speciale and George Cleveland.)

News reports about the legislation have generally portrayed its introduction as an embarrassment, but have not noted that there is a broader nullification movement among right-wing leaders pushing state legislators to defy the Supreme Court on marriage equality and abortion. Some would extend that call to federal income taxes and federal gun laws.

We reported last month on a couple of state representatives from South Carolina urging nullification in the legislature as well as the creation of communities that would ignore laws and court rulings they believe are morally evil.

At last year’s Awakening conference, sponsored by Religious Right legal group Liberty Counsel, anti-gay pastor Paul Blair promoted his efforts to get states to defy the Supreme Court’s Obergefell ruling. Blair distributed copies of an interview he had done with the John Birch Society’s New American magazine in which he called the decision illegitimate and unconstitutional and “an attempt to force everyone to celebrate a behavior that violates conscience and the Holy Scriptures, and to force the acceptance of that behavior on our children through public education.” As we reported at the time:

Reclaiming America for Christ, a ministry of Blair’s church in Edmond, Oklahoma, is promoting “Protect Life and Marriage,” an effort “dedicated to the proposition that the state of Oklahoma has federal and state constitutional authority to (1) protect the institution of natural, traditional marriage and; (2) protect innocent, unborn children from abortion; and that in the face of unjust, unlawful U.S. Supreme Court actions it is time for Oklahoma to exercise this authority.”

Blair said his group has 980 pastors and over 20,000 supporters, and is working with the governor, attorney general and state legislators to promote a nullification strategy: “We are trying to stop this legally, lawfully, politically, actually using the Constitution initially…” Speakers at a Protect Life and Marriage rally at the Oklahoma state capitol last October included U.S. Sen. James Lankford and Rep. Jim Bridenstine, along with state legislators and pastors. Blair also said people supporting some kind of state-led resistance are working through different channels in Tennessee, Alabama, Kentucky and Texas.

Liberty Counsel itself has encouraged defiance of the Supreme Court with its defense of Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis and its defense of the now-suspended Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, who waged a resistance campaign against the marriage equality ruling.

Last year Liberty Counsel President Mat Staver asked supporters to sign a letter of encouragement to Moore. The letter read in part:

Thank you for not bowing your knee to the U.S. Supreme Court’s egregious 5-4 marriage opinion on same-sex “marriage.” No civil authority, including the U.S. Supreme Court, has the authority to define marriage as anything but the union of one man and one woman!

I pray that God continues to guide and protect you, and to give you and other Christian leaders the continuing strength to turn the tide of immorality sweeping our nation.