Tags: Gay Marriage | North Carolina | same-sex marriages | magistrates | bill

Under NC Bill, Magistrates Allowed to Pass on Gay Marriages

By    |   Tuesday, 03 February 2015 05:10 PM

The North Carolina Legislature is deliberating a bill which would allow the state's magistrates and registers of deeds to refuse to perform same-sex marriages.

The bill, titled "Magistrate Recusal of Civil Ceremonies," sponsored by Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger with 16 Senate co-sponsors, would allow magistrates and registers to recuse themselves without legal penalty from performing any marriages, the Christian Post reports.

It comes on the heels of a decision on Oct. 10 by the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals which, in effect, struck down North Carolina's same-sex marriage ban.

The action resulted in the resignation of Swain County Magistrate Judge Gilbert Breedlove, a part-time pastor, after 23 years as a magistrate, the Asheville Citizen-Times reports. At least five other magistrates followed suit, including Rockingham County magistrate John Kallam.

At that time, Berger vowed to offer such legislation, and said in a statement, "While the courts have expanded on the freedoms of some, we must not ignore the constitutionally protected rights of others. This bill offers a reasonable solution to protect the First Amendment rights of magistrates and register of deeds employees while complying with the marriage law ordered by the courts, so they are not forced to abandon their religious beliefs to save their jobs," Berger said in a statement.

The bill states, "Every magistrate has the right to recuse from performing all lawful marriages under this Chapter based upon any sincerely held religious objection" and adds similar language for registers of deeds.

The bill further provides that any magistrates who resigned rather than perform gay marriages, if they return to their jobs, will have their seniority protected. It also protects same-sex couples wishing to marry by directing the Administrative Office of the Courts to ensure that a willing magistrate be made available, should all magistrates in a given district recuse themselves.

Republican Sen. Ronald Rabin told the Sanford Herald, "We have encountered a situation where the expansion of marriage to one group of people has infringed on the constitutionally protected rights of another. Ensuring that the citizens of District 12 and North Carolina as a whole retain their religious freedoms encompassed in the First Amendment Free Exercise Clause is what I swore oath to defend, and I will do exactly that."

Breedlove told the Citizen-Times that resignation "was my only option. We were directed we had to perform the marriages, and that was just something I couldn't do because of my religious beliefs.

"I was Christian when I started. Then, the law didn't require me to perform something that was against my religious belief. Now that law has changed its requirements."

Chris Sgro, executive director of Equality North Carolina, an LGBT group, which opposes the legislation, told the Citizen-Times, "Our hope is that people across North Carolina will support same-sex marriage and do their jobs and conduct same-sex marriages the same as they would for opposite-sex couples."

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The North Carolina Legislature is deliberating a bill which would allow the state's magistrates and registers of deeds to refuse to perform same-sex marriages.
North Carolina, same-sex marriages, magistrates, bill
Tuesday, 03 February 2015 05:10 PM
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