Appeals Court Rejects Challenge to NC Law Allowing Magistrates to Opt Out of Officiating ‘Gay Weddings’

Photo Credit: George Hodan

RICHMOND, Va. — A federal appeals court has rejected a challenge to a North Carolina law allowing magistrates to opt out of officiating same-sex “weddings” after agreeing with a lower court that the plaintiffs in the case lacked standing.

“The outcome here is in no way a comment on same-sex marriage as a matter of social policy. The case before us is far more technical, whether plaintiffs, simply by virtue of their status as state taxpayers, have alleged a personal, particularized injury for the purposes of standing,” Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson, nominated to the bench by then-President Ronald Reagan, wrote on behalf of the three-judge panel.

He said that the complainants had proven no personal harm because they have either already “married” their partner or are about to do so without any claim of obstruction.

“Plaintiffs concede that the state has not impeded or restricted their opportunity to get married,” Wilkinson wrote. “One same-sex couple married in 2014, another same-sex couple is engaged to be married, and the last pair of plaintiffs, an interracial couple, married in 1976. … Because plaintiffs’ claim does not fall within the narrow exception to the general bar against taxpayer standing, their suit must be dismissed.”

As previously reported, S.B. 2 was introduced in 2015 by Sen. Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, to allow magistrates to recuse themselves from officiating over same-sex services, as well as to permit register of deeds workers to opt out of issuing licenses due to religious objections.

The bill came with one condition: that the individual remove themselves from the marriage business altogether.

“Every magistrate has the right to recuse from performing all lawful marriages … based upon any sincerely held religious objection,” it read in part. “Such recusal shall be upon notice to the chief district court judge and is in effect for at least six months from the time delivered to the chief district court judge.”

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Then-Gov. Pat McCrory vetoed the legislation after being urged by homosexual advocacy groups to do so, but his veto was subsequently overruled by a majority vote.

While reports stated that no one had been denied a license since the law was passed, two homosexuals and their partners filed suit against the legislation in December 2015. An interracial couple sued as well.

“Senate Bill 2 expressly declares that magistrates religious beliefs are superior to their oath of judicial office,” attorney Luke Largess from the law firm Tin, Fulton, Walker and Owen argued. “The law spends public money to advance those religious beliefs. That is a straightforward violation of the First Amendment.”

Last September, U.S. District Judge Max Coburn, nominated to the bench by then-President Barack Obama, ruled that while “there exists the potential that a citizen could suffer real or emotional harm as a result of S.B. 2,” the plaintiffs in the case lacked standing, as they could not prove that they had personally been harmed by the law.

“As plaintiffs have made no allegations of an ‘injury in fact’ that might otherwise allow them to assert standing in this case, plaintiffs have failed to meet their burden of showing they have standing to bring Due Process and Equal Protection claims,” he wrote. “Accordingly, because Plaintiffs lack standing to bring their Fourteenth Amendment challenges, the court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over them and this action must be dismissed.”

The plaintiffs appealed to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, which upheld Coburn’s ruling on Thursday.

“[T]he plaintiffs, all of whom are either married or engaged, do not claim that the state has impeded their right to get married. Instead, they challenge the religious exemption as taxpayers who object to the alleged spending of public funds in aid of religion,” the panel noted. “In light of the Supreme Court’s admonitions on the narrow scope of taxpayer standing, we affirm the judgment of the district court that plaintiffs lack standing to press this claim.”

Pro-family groups cheered the outcome of the case.

“We celebrate this victory for North Carolina magistrates who have the constitutional right to follow their conscience and rights to free exercise without fear of punishment,” said Mat Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, in a statement. “The LGBT agenda seeks to steamroll over the conscience of everyone, including those who serve in the court system who believe in natural marriage.”

Liberty Counsel had represented Magistrate Brenda Bumgarner in an amicus brief filed in support of the law.


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  • Grace Kwon

    Good. Everyone should have a right to treat the same-sex “marriage” as a
    sin and not marriage because it is not marriage but a sin against God.
    Romans 1. Recognition of same-sex “marriage” brings global religious
    persecutions.

    • Bob Johnson

      Certainly everyone who wants to can treat homosexuality (and anything else for that matter) as a sin. That said, sin is not against the law in the United States. We can covet our neighbor’s sports car and put Buddhist statues in our front yards.

      • Grace Kwon

        Christianity alone establishes the truth, human rights, freedom, equality, justice, and civility for everyone on earth. All pagan religions and all ideologies like atheism, humanism, and Darwinism violate human rights and create massive number of victim groups one way or another.

  • Amos Moses – He>i

    Today, the Texas Supreme Court ruled states can define marriage, essentially overturning Obergefell v. Hodges and sending shockwaves around the country. In Obergefell v. Hodges, the United States Supreme Court redefined traditional biblical marriage between a man and a woman to include homosexual marriage.

    The victory came after a four-year legal battle.

    In 2013, Houston attorney Jared Woodfill filed a lawsuit against liberal Houston Mayor Annise Parker.

    Woodfill argued Parker broke state law by using taxpayer dollars to pay for same-sex benefits to City of Houston employees.

    Pastor Jack Pidgeon and Republican activist Larry Hicks had the courage to serve as Woodfill’s clients.

    A fabulous Harris County Family Court judge, Lisa Millard, agreed with Woodfill’s argument and ruled Mayor Parker’s conduct broke the law. But the liberal left appealed the decision and overturned Millard’s decision. Woodfill was not deterred, however, and took the case to the Texas Supreme Court…..

    hmmmmmmmmmmm ………………

    • Michael C

      What is it about this court ruling that apparently pleases you so much that you’ve felt the need to take this thread off-topic?

      Gay couples can get married everywhere in the U.S. I understand why you disagree with this. You feel that marriage is owned and governed by God.

      If the recognition of the marriages of gay couples was your real issue (and not actually a broader animosity for gay people in general), why would you rejoice in this ruling?

      Not providing spousal benefits for the legally married partners of gay government employees doesn’t solve the thing that you feel is the problem. Gloating about this decision just makes me feel that you feel happy when gay people aren’t treated equally. It’s not about marriage for you at all.

      • Amos Moses – He>i

        just stuff in the news ………… and homosexuals do not get married …… as it is not a marriage ……. it is a homomarriage ….. not the same thing ………..

        • zampogna

          In the eyes of the law which we all have to follow, it is. And that is all that matters.

          • Amos Moses – He>i

            in the eyes of God who created it ….. it aint ………. and that matters more ………..

          • zampogna

            You are not God, it’s not a good idea to speak on His behalf.

          • Amos Moses – He>i

            he has spoken for Himself …. and wrote it down through the scriptures … i have never spoken for Him ….. only spoken His received revelation of truth …. which we are called to do so by Christ Himself ……… which you deny …………..

          • zampogna

            No, people claiming to be God wrote those texts. And we have no proof of that whatsoever.

          • Amos Moses – He>i

            and again … you deny what scripture says ….. you deny the truth ……. fine ….. what is there for us to talk about ……

          • zampogna

            If scripture says something demonstrably false then yes, I deny it.

          • Amos Moses – He>i

            sure …. you reject truth ….. which has always been my presupposition …. of you …….. nothing new here ……….

          • zampogna

            No, I reject garbage. Wherever I see it.

          • Amos Moses – He>i

            FYI … none of them “claimed” to be God ……… FAIL …………..

          • zampogna

            They claimed what they wrote was “God breathed”. I wonder what would happen if anyone tried that today. Would they be believed?

          • Amos Moses – He>i

            depends on what they wrote …… and many do claim to have “new” revelation …. but it is accepted that the canon of scripture is closed …….. there is no new revelation ………. and scripture place a very high penalty for those who claim it and are found to be liars …………

            Revelation
            22:17 And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.
            22:18 For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book:
            22:19 And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.
            22:20 He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.
            22:21 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.

            again …… “If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book:”

          • zampogna

            I still don’t see why it couldn’t have been a crock when it happened back in the day as well.

          • Amos Moses – He>i

            so you reject truth …. you reject scripture ….. not my problem …. but it is as i suspected ….

          • zampogna

            I have no reason to call it truth just because it claims to be. Neither do you.

      • Amos Moses – He>i

        “You feel that marriage is owned and governed by God.”

        mikey ….. it has NOT ONE THING to do with my “feelings” ……….. it is a FACT ………. which you cannot refute ….. your “feelings” to the contrary ………….

        • Michael C

          ……….. it is a FACT ……….

          It appears that you don’t understand the definition of the word fact.

          • Amos Moses – He>i

            or that you do not ………….

        • Sedagive

          Why should we refute it when you can’t support this supposed “fact”?

          • Amos Moses – He>i

            you do not accept the truth ….. and you cannot refute the truth …… because it is the truth …….

          • Sedagive

            There’s nothing to refute, because you haven’t supported it.

          • Amos Moses – He>i

            the truth stands on its own and requires no proof ……. assertions against it are measured by it ….. not the other way around ….. truth is either accepted or rejected …. you reject it …. you do not know it ………..

          • Sedagive

            If it were true, you could support it.

          • Amos Moses – He>i

            it is true … it is supported by the SCRIPTURES ……. you reject truth …… see ….. the standard here is SCRIPTURE is unrefuted …. no one has ever been able to refute it ….. no one ever will ….. the PRESUPPOSITION here ….. is that it is the truth …….. and it is up to the deniers to prove it wrong ….. and you have no credibility ………. if it is not the truth … then it is a lie and you should be able to easily refute it ….. done in courtrooms in this country every day ….. and scripture is the defendant and presumed innocent …. up to you to prove otherwise ……….

          • Sedagive

            See, that’s circular logic. Scripture is what we need to be supported. Scripture can’t be supported by scripture.

          • Amos Moses – He>i

            nope …. the truth DOES support the truth ….. how could it be any other way ……… truth cannot refute the truth for then it would not be truth ….. if it is a lie ….. it is up to the deniers to do so ……….

          • Sedagive

            What facts do you have to support scripture?

          • Amos Moses – He>i

            again ….. the PRESUPPOSITION is that is stands unrefuted ……….. many have tried and failed and died ….. scripture is still here …… a presupposition is not defended ….. the truth is not defended ….. it is accepted or rejected …. you reject it ….. and no amount of evidential argumentation will alter your acceptance …… you are not in a position to judge Gods word …… neither am i ….. i accept it …. you do not ……….

          • Sedagive

            The “presupposition” is that it stands unrefuted? Hardly. It stands unsupported, that’s the thing.

          • Amos Moses – He>i

            “Hardly. It stands unsupported, that’s the thing.”

            so if it is then refute it ….. you should have a easy time of it ……. good luck ………

          • Sedagive

            What is there to refute? No evidence for a global flood, no evidence for a divine jesus…

          • Amos Moses – He>i

            have fun …….

          • Amos Moses – He>i

            PRESUPPOSITION is not defended ……… it stands unrefuted for thousands of years …………..

          • Sedagive

            What facts do you have to support scripture?

      • Jason Todd

        You feel that marriage is owned and governed by God.

        It is.

        • Sedagive

          Yet it isn’t.

    • TheKingOfRhye

      Hey, I can copy and paste too, so let’s see a story about the same thing, but from a different site…patheos in this case, since unlike others, I’m not afraid to attribute my sources….(my own comments in parentheses)

      Texas Supreme Court Begs to Be Smacked Down Hard

      The Texas Supreme Court just delivered a ruling that will be blasted by the U.S. Supreme Court, just as they did to Arkansas’ high court this week. It’s a very similar case, with the Texas court ruling that governmental bodies don’t have to provide the same benefits to same-sex couples that they do to opposite-sex couples.

      (wait, wait, wait….”governmental bodies don’t have to provide the same benefits to same-sex couples that they do to opposite-sex couples”?? Has the Texas SC heard of the 14th Amendment?)

      They could not be more wrong, and the SCOTUS reiterated that in their ruling on an Arkansas case this week — without even bothering to let the parties submit briefs or make oral arguments. In that case, the state of Arkansas refused to list same-sex couples on birth certificates, but they do that with opposite-sex couples regardless of paternity. SCOTUS slapped them down hard and told them in no uncertain terms that the ruling in Obergefell requires that same-sex couples be treated exactly the same as opposite-sex couples under the law. (Bingo. That’s what I was just talking about, the 14th…)

      “As this Court explained in Obergefell v. Hodges, the Constitution entitles same-sex couples to civil marriage “on the same terms and conditions as opposite-sex couples.”…Because that differential treatment infringes Obergefell’s commitment to provide same-sex couples “the constellation of benefits that the States have linked to marriage,” we reverse the state court’s judgment…Obergefell proscribes such disparate treatment. As we explained there, a State may not “exclude same-sex couples from civil marriage on the same terms and conditions as opposite-sex couples.””

      This could not be more clear. Rarely does the Supreme Court draw a line this bright and unmistakable. In fact, even Chief Justice Roberts, who opposed the ruling in Obergefell, joined the majority in striking down the Arkansas ruling, because even if he disagreed with the ruling in that case, he knows that the ruling does require equal treatment in all circumstances, especially from a governmental body. Even if they
      disagreed with the law, they are still bound to enforce it evenhandedly. I see another smackdown coming.

      (just about what I thought anyway before I read that…this is just gonna get overturned. And by the way, the Supreme Court didn’t “redefine traditional biblical marriage”, since the Supreme Court doesn’t “define traditional biblical marriage” in the first place, they define CIVIL marriage in the United States, through their interpretation of the Constitution. Also, a STATE court can’t “essentially overturn” a ruling by the SCOTUS.)

      • Amos Moses – He>i

        so what ……….. one of them was from Slate ….. very liberal ….. the other was from Charisma …..

        • TheKingOfRhye

          One of them? What are you even talking about? One of what? The whole thing you copied was from Charisma. Clearly about the farthest thing from “very liberal”, you can see their bias in almost every other word.

          • Amos Moses – He>i

            different article ….. you may come across it ……….. Charisma …. is very liberal for a christian site ………

          • TheKingOfRhye

            I wasn’t claiming whoever wrote that wasn’t biased. It was clearly written not just as reporting news, but as an opinion…but one that raises some good points, I think. Do you have arguments against them, or did you want to just talk about who’s biased about what?

          • Amos Moses – He>i

            my point is ….. it is not over ….. and given the current political climate ….. what SCOTUS says could make little difference ……. much talk of a civil war in this country ….. and if if goes hot …… that would pretty much nullify SCOTUS and its “rulings” …… and marriage is a states issue ….. and SCOTUS has said so before …….

          • TheKingOfRhye

            Civil war? Really? Over some people having the right to marry? Yeah, that’s not blowing things out of proportion or anything……

            “and marriage is a states issue ….. and SCOTUS has said so before”

            Not since at least before Loving v. Virginia, they haven’t.

            Actually the Constitution says it’s not a “states issue”. 9th Amendment: “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be
            construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.” 14th: “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the
            privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; , nor shall any
            State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due
            process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal
            protection of the laws.”

          • Amos Moses – He>i

            see …. when you do not follow the news ….. you are uninformed …. has nothing to do with that directly …… but nice try ….. try googling it ….. many see it coming ….. if you do not …. its on you ……..

            Are We on the Verge of Another Civil War? | The Nation
            Feb 8, 2017 … Civil Wars ranges over more than two millennia of history, law, and …. even today , shows that the wounds of the Civil War have not entirely …

            Will the Second Civil War Turn Violent? – The Dennis Prager Show
            May 2, 2017 … In a recent column, I made the case that Americans are fighting the

            Second Civil War. The deep chasm that has opened up between the left …
            Will the Second Civil War Turn Violent? – Dennis Prager – Townhall
            May 2, 2017 … In a recent column, I made the case that Americans are fighting the Second Civil War. The deep chasm that has opened up between the left …

            The Simple Reason Why A Second American Civil War May Be …
            Apr 21, 2017 … Honestly, I think we’re in the early stages of a second civil war. I can’t say what it’ll look like precisely, but I can tell you that our nation is on this …

        • RWH

          And Charisma is supposed to be a reliable, unbiased source?

  • Grace Kwon

    It’s so sad that the Western culture is so controlled by the sin-prefering “political correctness” and limits the speeches of the Christians, although blasphemies and the endorsement of any types of sexual depravity are accepted and kept being posted. It’s a miracle that the Western culture still sees pedophilia as something wrong; meanwhile they let the sexually-depraved people freely brainwash children homosexual or transgender at their will. Westerners should admit that it’s their cultural region that started the crazy unconditional protection of depravity and now is corrupting the global children’s population by upholding the wrong political correctness. The rest are mere mimickers.

    • Bob Johnson

      Okay, but that does all that have to do with this article? Christians won. The federal court rejected the challenge. North Caroline law can and still allows magistrates from not having to perform gay weddings.

      • Grace Kwon

        It is abnormal that people have to be protected from being forced to perform gay marriage. This proves that today’s Western culture has been made that much tyrannically immoral. The former greatest Christendom. Poor Western fathers. Happy is he whose descendants are not Sodomic. You need Christianity for the truth, morality, and sanity.