Courts director says magistrates bound to perform same-sex marriages
Posted November 6, 2014
Raleigh, N.C. — 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.