NC court rejects magistrates' gay marriage lawsuit

Posted September 20, 2016 12:19 p.m. EDT
Updated September 20, 2016 1:07 p.m. EDT

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

— North Carolina's Court of Appeals has rejected two former magistrates' claim that their rights were violated by state guidance that they could lose their jobs if they refused to perform gay marriages.

Their lawsuit cited late 2014 guidance memos from the Administrative Office of the Courts.

The appeals court ruled Tuesday that Gilbert Breedlove and Thomas Holland lacked standing for their lawsuit because local judges have power to appoint, suspend or fire them – not state officials who sent the memo.

"Because defendants lacked the actual authority to sanction, suspend, or remove plaintiffs, the allegations in plaintiffs’ complaint, when viewed as true and considered in the light most favorable to plaintiffs, fail to demonstrate an injury that defendants were capable of inflicting upon plaintiffs, and by extension fails to show that such an injury could be redressed," Judge Anne Marie Calabria wrote for the unanimous panel.

The ruling upheld a lower court's decision to dismiss their case.

The two devout Christian magistrates from Swain and Graham counties had resigned after the guidance was issued. They sued the state in April 2015.

State legislators later enacted a law allowing magistrates to avoid performing same-sex marriages based on religious beliefs.