First Drip (11/7/14): North Carolina magistrates told they can't opt out of performing gay marriages



The 4th Circuit said barring same-sex marriage violates equal protection or due-process clauses of the U.S. Constitution, and two rulings in North Carolina in October set off a flurry of same-sex weddings. But John W. Smith, director of the North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts, worried that GOP legislators "misled" magistrates into thinking that federal law permitted them to opt out of performing such marriages. He sent a three-page letter to an attorney from Rockingham County, stating magistrates "recognize a quite clear distinction between marriage as a civil ceremony conferring legal status, and marriage as a religious institution quite apart from temporal concerns.”

Federal judge Frank Whitney dressed down former mayor Patrick Cannon for "embarrassing the community, again" when Cannon appeared before him Thursday to answer for violating the conditions of his bond by voting. Cannon cannot leave his home before he goes to prison later this month.

Officials in Ferguson, Missouri are bracing for the worst ahead of a grand jury's decision on whether to charge police officer Darren Wilson with the murder of unarmed teen Michael Brown. A group of community members calling themselves the Don't Shoot Coalition have asked for 48 hours notice before the decision is announced to try to keep tensions in the St. Louis suburb from boiling over into violence and confusion. They have also released a document to the police with 19 "Rules of Engagement."

Just days after a United Nations panel warned that failure to dramatically and quickly curb the burning of fossil fuels would do "irreversible damage" to the planet, the U.S. electorate on Tuesday voted in a Congress even more committed to the carbon status quo. “We had some wins, but it was pretty much a bloodbath,” said Wenonah Hauter, the director of national environmental group Food and Water Watch.

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