By M.H. Cavanaugh
Christian Action League
December 10, 2015
CHARLOTTE – Two same-sex couples and one interracial couple filed a lawsuit on Wednesday against the state of North Carolina. They claim Senate Bill 2 – the legislation that allows magistrates and registers of deeds to recuse themselves from the performance of civil ceremonies if they have a sincere religious objection to gay marriage – is unconstitutional.
The lawsuit, Ansley v. North Carolina, argues the legislation that became law in June over the Governor’s veto permits magistrates to violate their oath of office to uphold the United States Constitution.
The lawsuit is being handled by the same team of lawyers that brought suit against North Carolina’s marriage protection amendment in 2014, which resulted in Federal Judge Max O. Cogburn striking it down in October of last year.
Attorneys for the case, Jake Sussman, Luke Largess and John Gresham, held a press conference about the lawsuit in front of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center on Wednesday.
Sussman told the media that the new law “undermines the constitutional integrity of the judicial system.” It even empowers magistrates who abdicate their judicial obligation to protect the constitutional rights of all citizens as established by the Supreme Court and keeps in office those who believe as a matter of faith that gays and lesbians are not full citizens.”
Senate President Pro-Tempore Phil Berger, who sponsored and championed the legislation responded in a statement, saying:
“Every North Carolinian seeking a gay marriage license since Senate Bill 2 became law has received one, and 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.”
The passage of Senate Bill 2 was precipitated by Judge Max O. Cogburn’s ruling that knocked down North Carolina’s marriage protection amendment and imposed same-sex marriage on the state, resulting in 16 magistrates who either retired or resigned.
The North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts had sent out a memorandum saying “all magistrates must treat same-sex marriages for which a marriage license has been issued by the Register of Deeds the same way that marriages between a man and a woman are scheduled and conducted.” It furthermore stated, “if a magistrate refuses to discharge the duties of his or her office, including a refusal to perform a marriage of a same-sex couple, that refusal is grounds for suspension or removal from office…as well as, potential criminal charges….”
Conservative Christian leaders from North Carolina-based public-policy groups were quick to condemn the lawsuit.
Tami Fitzgerald, who lead Vote for Marriage NC and currently serves as executive director of the North Carolina Values Coalition, said:
“Senate Bill 2 strikes a balance between making sure that every homosexual couple who wants to get married can get married and protecting the 1st Amendment rights of magistrates to exercise their religious freedom. No court in this country should desecrate the First Amendment by requiring an employee to violate his religious beliefs just to keep his job. The Supreme Court has already settled this issue—the religious freedom guaranteed by the First Amendment includes the right to act upon one’s religious beliefs, including in the workplace. Although, Senate Bill 2 accommodates every homosexual couples’ desire to get married in this State, this lawsuit seeks to force magistrates, who have never had the duty to perform marriages and whose religious beliefs would be violated, to perform same-sex marriages. While these activists may now have a right to homosexual marriage, they do not have a right to force dissenters to perform it.”
In a statement released by John Rustin of the North Carolina Family Policy Council, Rustin said:
“SB 2 was designed to ensure that civil marriages would continue in all 100 counties of the state while also acknowledging that the religious freedoms guaranteed by our federal and state constitutions apply to all citizens, including public servants. To suggest that public officials who recused themselves from performing marriages are not able to execute their duties with integrity is completely unfounded. This is clearly an attempt to force people of faith out of government.”
Dr. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League, said that the lawsuit brings more light to the true intentions of gay activism. He said:
“We have heard to ad-nauseam that same-sex couples have never wanted anything more than the right to marry just like everyone else. This lawsuit proves otherwise. There is no middle-ground with them. There is ‘no live and let live.’ They want to dominate, control and eliminate all opposition to their way of life.
“Nowhere has it been mentioned that current magistrates and clerks began their careers at a time when there was a reasonable expectation that our laws and government supported the ideals of basic morality that most civilized societies observed for millennia. Just because a few federal judges have attempted to legitimize what the scriptures call a gross sin, the believer cannot simply flip a switch and pretend God’s Word is inconsequential. The homosexual lobby will not be satisfied unless those who hold to a biblically-based set of ethics are marginalized, ostracized, and completely run out of the public sector.”
SB 2 grants that magistrates and registers of deeds that have a religious or moral objection to same-sex marriage may opt-out of the performance of all civil ceremonies for at least six months. Each county must guarantee 10 hours per week for the performance of public wedding ceremonies. No couple, heterosexual or homosexual, may be denied a marriage.
Since the enactment of SB 2 into law, more than 30 magistrates and register of deeds have recused themselves from the performance of civil ceremonies. If this suit succeeds, these people will either have to comply with the performance of what they find morally objectionable or lose their jobs.