Is this the year for marriage equality in NC?

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- As thousands of participants flow into uptown Charlotte this weekend for the Charlotte Pride gay pride festival, many say they hope this is the year North Carolina's same-sex marriage ban is overturned.

A federal appeals court recently struck down Virginia's ban on gay marriage, and marriage equality advocates in North Carolina believe the Tar Heel State is next.

North and South Carolina and West Virginia share the same federal appeals court district as Virginia. Even though the Virginia decision doesn't directly overturn North Carolina's same sex marriage ban, advocates say the court decision opens the door to marriage equality here.

Rev. Nancy Kraft is a plaintiff in a local case that challenges the ban. The case, United Church of Christ v. Roy Cooper, is the only case in the nation challenging same-sex marriage bans based on religious liberty, said Kraft.

"Their religious liberty is being violated," said Kraft. "It's as simple as that."

Kraft is the minister at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, and is one of many clergy members who have joined the case. Other plaintiffs on the case include the United Church of Christ, and same-sex couples who want to marry in the church.

Kraft watches as couples in her church go to other states that allow same-sex marriage.

"It breaks my heart every time because I think, 'Doggone it, they should be getting married here with the people who love them and support them,'" said Kraft.

Attorney General Roy Cooper has said he will stop defending the state against challenges to the same-sex marriage ban.

If the U.S. Supreme Court refuses to get involved, same-sex couples in Virginia may be allowed to marry as soon as Thursday.

Kraft doesn't believe North Carolina will move that quickly, but she's sure -- in light of the Virginia decision -- that it's just a matter of time.

"By next year's pride," she said, "It'll be a done deal."

Jake Sussman, the plaintiff's attorney, told NBC Charlotte late Saturday night,"If the Supreme Court stays the Bostic decision (the Virginia case) before Thursday at 8 a.m., then we expect NC officials to not oppose the the NC court entering judgment in favor of our clients by striking down amendment one and permitting same sex marriage."

"If the Supreme Court stays the Bostic ruling while it considers whether or not to review that decision, we will nevertheless ask the court in NC to enter judgment in our clients' favor -- we believe it is simply a matter of time before there is no longer any question about the fundamental right to marry for same sex couples," he continued.


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