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@NCCapitol

Few magistrates opt out of marriage duties

Posted July 7, 2015

A Wake County magistrate marries a same-sex couple after a federal court ruling overturned North Carolina's constitutional prohibition against gay marriage.

— Only 2 percent of North Carolina magistrates have taken advantage of a new state law allowing them to express their opposition to same-sex marriage by opting out of performing all weddings.

Senate Bill 2 was adopted on June 11 after lawmakers overrode Gov. Pat McCrory's veto of the measure. The law allows magistrates and staffers in county register of deeds offices to opt out of presiding at weddings or issuing marriage licenses, respectively, for a "sincerely held religious objection." Although the recusals cover all weddings for at least six months, the legislation has been widely read as a way to give legal cover to those who object to gay marriage.

Supporters say the law protects the religious rights of magistrates and county employees, but critics say it allows public servants to decide which of their job duties to perform and for which taxpayers to perform them.

According to the Administrative Office of the Courts, 14 of the state's 672 magistrates had requested recusals through Monday.

A magistrate or register of deeds staffer doesn't have to opt out in advance, however. He or she can refuse to serve a couple at the time they go to obtain a marriage license or go before the bench for a civil wedding.

No details were released regarding which counties are affected by the opt-outs. Under state law, the chief District Court judge in each county must assign someone to perform weddings in a magistrate's absence to ensure all couples who want to be married can be married. Each county must be prepared to offer civil ceremonies for at least 10 hours a week over at least three weekdays, according to the law.

20 Comments

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  • Howard Roark Dec 9, 2015
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    And as we've seen lately, especially from this GA, that the legislation doesn't mean its constitutional. I imagine this one will be going to court as well.

  • Craig Allen Jul 10, 2015
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    The government allows special provisions to accommodate religious beliefs. The Dept. of Defense has relaxed their uniform standards to allow service members to wear religious clothing such as turbans, skullcaps or facial hair while on duty. The EEOC also protects their religious beliefs. This is called Religious Accommodation as prescribed by law. You may not agree with a certain groups beliefs but they have rights like all Americans.

  • Gen Lee Jul 9, 2015
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    that would be discrimination though, but it doesn't matter if you are Christian.

  • Gen Lee Jul 9, 2015
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    you can go find someone that will do it. it is not that big of a problem, they just want to make it a problem

  • Raleigh Rose Jul 9, 2015
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    What about the couple's right to get married? If magistrates do not want to serve the entire public that pays their salary, then they need to find another job.

  • George Herbert Jul 9, 2015
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    I agree that the magistrates should have to perform the duties of their job. The way the law is written, however, they can cite their religious beliefs to get out of performing all marriages. At least they can't pick and choose which ones to perform.

    The counties also have to have magistrates available to perform marriages at least 10 hours per week over at least three business days. Anyone wanting to get married should be able to do so.

  • Todd Whitmer Jul 8, 2015
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    Well, that makes it ok then... SMH

  • Bobby Correct Jul 8, 2015
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    I'm sorry, folks. Magistrates are performing their jobs as defined by the current legislature.

  • Todd Whitmer Jul 8, 2015
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    There are only 14 so far. To me that looks like 14 vacancies that need to be filled by people who are willing to do their jobs.

    Do they know how much damage they are doing? How would you feel ( gay or straight is irrelevant here) you show up to get a marriage license or to get married and are told "no". For those thinking it is just about "their beliefs", there is a whole world beyond the bubble that you live in... Step outside of yourself...

  • William James Jul 8, 2015
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    If a police officer, solider, or other government worker refused to do certain job duties or deny services on religious grounds they would be told to find other employment! How are magistrates any different?

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