By M.H. Cavanaugh
Christian Action League
November 25, 2014
NORTH CAROLINA – According to Time Warner Cable News, more magistrates have resigned their posts because of their objections to performing same-sex marriages than previously reported. Since the ruling of Judge Max O. Cogburn of Asheville that knocked down the State’s Marriage Protection Amendment, sixteen judges have either retired or resigned.
Although the reason for their leaving was not stated by the Administrative Office of the Courts, TWC News has said they have been able to determine that at least 10 of the sixteen left because they were unwilling to perform gay nuptials.
TWC News says it reached out to many current and former magistrates who turned down their interview requests because “they either feared losing their jobs, while others feared for their safety saying they have received personal threats because of the controversial issue.”
“There have been no efforts by the AOC to accommodate magistrates who have religious objections to performing same-gender ceremonies,” said Dr. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League. “The only people willing to defend and stand for religious liberty in this case, are North Carolina Senate Republicans, led by Senate President Pro-Tempore, Phil Berger. Our Governor has also been cravenly silent on the matter.”
Berger and 28 other Senate Republicans sent a letter to Judge John W. Smith, director of the AOC in late October, citing federal law, the First Amendment, and various judicial rulings that clearly show magistrates who have religious concerns should not have to choose between their jobs and their religion. Moreover, Berger has promised to put forward legislation in the next session of the North Carolina General Assembly clarifying the religious liberties of magistrates.
Speaker Thom Tillis and Senate President Pro-Tempore, Phil Berger have intervened in cases against the State’s Marriage Amendment and promised to appeal rulings that struck it down as unconstitutional. Judge William Osteen in Greensboro has granted them standing.
Moreover, two counties, Gaston and Brunswick counties have passed resolutions in support of North Carolina’s Marriage Protection Amendment and have asked the nation’s Highest Court, the U.S. Supreme Court to hear an appeal. Gaston County approved their resolution at their meeting Thursday, November 13, and Brunswick County approved their own at their meeting, Friday, November 21.
Governor McCrory has only said the State will comply. “The administration is moving forward with the execution of the court’s ruling and will continue to do so unless otherwise notified by the courts,” he said.
TWC News also reports that the recent resignation of magistrates across the state “creates a new challenge for magistrates still on the job.”
TWC news states:
“The magistrate’s office must be staffed around the clock, every day of the year, and magistrates don’t get overtime pay or any paid time off; no sick days, vacation, or holidays. Anytime there’s a hole in the staffing schedule, the remaining magistrates must cover the shift, without getting paid for the extra hours.
“That’s a particularly tall task in Hyde County along the coast, where two of the county’s four magistrate’s left in October, leaving the remaining two to cover the magistrate’s office 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year until replacements are hired.”
TWC News also states, “For a little perspective, the court system reports there are 672 magistrates across the state, so only about 1.5 percent have left because of the same-sex marriage ruling.” Equality North Carolina, the state’s premiere gay advocacy organization, has also argued that where there have been objections to performing same-sex marriages by judges, the cases are largely isolated.
But Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League noted, “It never ceases to amaze me, the hypocrisy of the left, especially those left of the rainbow. They use high-sounding arguments about the tyranny of the majority. Nevertheless, when a minority says they have a real religious objection, when the minority says they can’t perform a same-sex marriage for conscience sake, they reply, ‘Alright, but keep your religion to yourself, violate your beliefs or lose the job. What hypocrisy!”
Kristi Burton Brown, an op-ed contributor to the Christian Post and an Alliance Defending Freedom attorney says her hope is that the judges who face the decision of whether to leave their positions might consider recusing themselves from same-sex ceremonies. Judges, she argues are allowed to recuse themselves from judicial proceedings in which they have “a personal bias or prejudice concerning a party.” “[W]hile this allowance is made to prevent unfair rulings against the parties, perhaps it is time for judges to attempt to use this allowance to prevent an unfair violation of their own religious rights,” she says.
Dr. Creech says that judges would do better not to step down and consider every option available to them. If they protest having to perform a same-sex marriage and were to be fired, one of the great First Amendment Law Firms in the country, Alliance Defending Freedom, Liberty Counsel, American Center for Law and Justice, would likely take up their case in court pro-bono.
In October, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear appeals on same-sex marriage rulings across the country. But a recent ruling by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals upholding traditional marriage creates split rulings, almost guaranteeing the court will have to resolve the issue.