RALEIGH, N.C. — Several homosexuals in North Carolina have filed suit to challenge a law that was passed this year that allows judges to opt out of officiating “gay weddings” because of their religious convictions.
As previously reported, S.B. 2 was introduced earlier this year by Sen. Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, to allow magistrates to recuse themselves from officiating over the services, as well as to permit register of deeds workers to opt out of issuing licenses due to religious objections.
The bill comes 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 reads 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.”
In February, the Senate voted 32-16 in favor of the bill, sending the matter on to the House, which likewise passed the measure 67-43.
Republican 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.
Only an estimated five percent of judges in the state—32 out of 670—have recused themselves since the enactment of the statute, and while reports state that no one has been denied a “marriage” license, three homosexuals and their partners filed suit against the law on Wednesday.
“It sets a dangerous precedent,” Chris Sgro of Equality North Carolina told WTVD-TV. “Magistrates have to carry out these weddings, same-sex weddings. Magistrates can’t opt out of that.”
But some disagree that judges are obligated to officiate any wedding ceremonies at all.
“The whole lawsuit was based upon the assumption that there’s a duty of magistrates to perform marriages, and that’s an incorrect assumption,” Tami Fitzgerald with the North Carolina Values Coalition told the outlet. “It’s incorrect legally because the statute says it’s an additional authority. So it’s optional for magistrates and registers of deeds. It’s not a duty.”
“What Senate Bill 2 does [is], it balances the right of homosexual couples to get married against the rights of an employee, including a government employee, to follow their religious beliefs, even when they’re on the job,” she said. “And we have a First Amendment right to exercise religious belief.”
Sen. Berger made similar remarks.
“This is just the latest attempt by the far Left’s political correctness mob to force their beliefs on everyone else by trampling the First Amendment guarantee of religious freedom,” he said.
Attorney General Roy Cooper, a Democrat, says that he disagrees with the law, but is going to defend it in court.