Courts director says magistrates bound to perform same-sex marriages

Posted November 6, 2014

— Magistrates may have been "misled" by Republican leaders who said the court officials could opt out of performing same-sex marriages, according to a three-page letter from Judge John Smith, director of the North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts. 

His letter responds to statements made by North Carolina Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger, who said magistrates that hold strong religious objections should be able to opt out of performing marriages for same-sex couples. 

"I am concerned that the widespread publicity may have misled magistrates as to their legal rights and remedies and that some may have relied to their detriment on its representations," Smith wrote in a letter dated Nov. 5

The letter goes on to note that some counties have only one magistrate and that federal laws have invalidated the state's prohibitions on same-sex marriages. 

"The law is now clear that any magistrate who does officiate over marriages must comply with the court rulings mandating equal treatment as to same-sex marriages," Smith wrote. 

Berger has said he will file legislation that would explicitly permit magistrates to decline to perform same-sex marriages. Several magistrates throughout North Carolina have already resigned their posts rather than be required to marry same-sex couples.


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  • I Have a Discernible Chin Nov 10, 2014

    live and let live

  • iopsyc Nov 10, 2014

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    It would have been nice if the government didn't first inject itself into the bedrooms of same sex couples by specifically prohibiting their marriage. The overruling of these bans and laws is a nice step out of their bedrooms.

  • wth50beau Nov 10, 2014

    As a Magistrate, I believe the service I perform is a civil uniting of people for the legal benefit and recognition of those legal rights. As a co-worker in Forsyth County wrote to Judge Smith, "render that which is Ceasar's unto Ceasar, and that which is the Lord's unto the Lord." Our ceremony at no time mentions religion of any persuasion. The only time a Magistrate may reference religion is to have someone swear on the Bible or Koran or Torah. Even then, we offer them the right to affirm rather than swear as some religious interpretations regard swearing as a sin. If you are not a Magistrate,, back off, it's not your fight.

  • gunmonkey Nov 10, 2014

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    Because marriage is a legal binding enforced by the government, not a church. You don't go to a church to end a marriage.

  • wjcspanteach Nov 10, 2014

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    Except, unless the Jewish person is working in a hog plant as a government official and eating said pork product was part of the duties of the office he/she holds -- your argument really holds no weight.
    No one is forcing the magistrates to enter into a marriage with someone of the same sex (which is more closely analogous with your example). The law requires ALL government officials to perform their duties. A more comparative example would be if a Muslim teacher (as an employee of the state) refused to provide instruction to a Christian student (as is in the teacher's job contract)...But, as long as the Muslim teacher can justify that teaching said Christian students would be against his/her religion, then I suppose you believe that the teacher should NOT be forced to teach those students.

  • wjcspanteach Nov 10, 2014

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    I did not realized that Judge Osteen or Judge Cogburn, or the entire 4th Circuit court of appeals, or the SCOTUS were all liberals from Kenya. Thank you for that history lesson.

  • wjcspanteach Nov 10, 2014

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    Do you also believe the AG should defend all laws of the state whether he agrees with them or not? A magistrate is an employee of the state. It is in his duty to comply with the laws, whether he agrees with them or not. Would you say the same if a magistrate didn't want to perform the marriage of an interracial couple? Couples of different religions? What if it was a Muslim magistrate and he refused to perform a ceremony for a Christian couple?

  • Freda Kerr Nov 10, 2014
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    Corporations are raking in record profits, the economy is picking up (the dump trucks are rolling, there is building going on), there has been NO takeovers of the banks and private businesses and you still believe that the president is a communist?! That is PATHETIC!!!!

  • Fastglass Nov 10, 2014

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    They might want to re-read the oath they took to uphold the law. Regardless of their personal beliefs.
    As a member of neither party, I find it ironic, that conservative christians think they are being "forced" to accept the Liberal "agenda" of gay marraige (which is being ruled by the 14th amendment of the very Constitution they claim is being trampled on). But those that do not subscribe to christianity aren't somehow being forced to accept the Conservative christian beliefs of marraige? That's the very definition of hypocracy. Take a good long look in the mirror.

  • archmaker Nov 10, 2014

    equal justice under the law