By M.H. Cavanaugh
Christian Action League
January 30, 2015
RALEIGH – After a two week break, North Carolina lawmakers returned to Raleigh this week to begin their work in earnest.
A bill filed that made immediate headlines across the state was Senate Bill 2 – Magistrates Recusal of Civil Ceremonies. The legislation protects the First Amendment rights of state magistrates and register of deeds who believe participation in a same-sex marriage ceremony would be in violation of their religion.
Senate President Pro-Tempore, Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) said he was fulfilling a promise he made to his constituents last year. In October, a longtime Rockingham County magistrate was forced to resign from his job when, after making numerous suggestions for alternate assignments and work shifts, the magistrate was instructed by a supervising judge that no accommodation would be made for his religious beliefs.
In November of last year, Time Warner Cable News (TWC) reported at least sixteen judges had resigned since same-sex marriage was legalized. Although the reason for their leaving was not stated by the Administrative Office of the Courts, TWC News said they had been able to determine that at least 10 of the sixteen left because they were unwilling to perform gay nuptials.
Sen. Berger said, “While the courts have expanded the freedoms of some, we must not ignore the constitutionally protected rights of others. This bill offers a reasonable solution to protect the First Amendment rights of magistrates and register of deeds employees while complying with the marriage law ordered by the courts – so they are not forced to abandon their religious beliefs to save their jobs.”
“The provision in the legislation allowing magistrates and register of deeds to recuse themselves is designed, however, not simply to address same-sex marriages only, but also applies to all marriages,” said Dr. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League. “We applaud Senator Berger’s defense of our nation’s first and most precious right – the right to follow your conscience without fear of reprisal.”
SB 2 has strong support in the state senate, with 17 co-sponsors already signed on. According to the Raleigh News and Observer, House Speaker Tim Moore said on Wednesday that House Republicans would discuss the issue in caucus, and if it receives a lot of support, the House would likely move forward with it.
Equality North Carolina’s (ENC), executive director, Chris Sgro, however, said the legislation was actually discrimination against the Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community dressed as “religious freedom.” ENC called upon its supporters to speak out against the proposed bill to both their legislators and Gov. Pat McCrory.
“To borrow a phrase from conservative radio commentator, Steve Deace, gay activists care more for the sexual revolution than they do the American Revolution,” said Dr. Creech. “Their goal is to silence all opposition to their lifestyle, religious or otherwise. They will try to move heaven and earth if necessary, and this includes redefining, or repressing the practice of religious conviction declaring same-sex relationships as immoral.”
Dr. Creech added that lawmakers who support and advocate for SB 2 will come under intense pressure from the left. “This is why we must contact them to thank them, promise to stand with them, and urge them to stay strong,” he said.
Rep. Paul Stam (R-Wake) has also promised to file a similar bill in the House, but with broader applications more like the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993.