By M.H. Cavanaugh
Christian Action League
October 31, 2014
RALEIGH – Friday, October 24th, State Senate Republicans sent a strong-worded letter to Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC), Director, John W. Smith. The letter chided Smith over a memorandum his office issued that said magistrates could not opt out of performing same-sex marriages.
“The memorandum – at best incomplete and at worst misleading – has caused unnecessary confusion and resulted in possible violations of the civil rights of public employees,” said the correspondence. Twenty-eight out of thirty-three of the Republicans in the Senate chamber signed the letter.
The guidance memo was sent a few days after federal Judge Max O. Cogburn in Asheville struck down the state’s Marriage Amendment as unconstitutional. Cogburn’s ruling ushered in same-sex marriage in the Tar Heel state, resulting in more than 600 homosexual couples applying for marriage licenses state-wide. Magistrates are required to officiate in weddings. But because of religious objections, some sought to be exempt from performing same-sex marriages while six have resigned and possibly more in the near future. (See Christian Post story: Four More North Carolina Judges Resign Over Refusal To Conduct Same-Sex Weddings) The AOC memo instructed that magistrates must perform gay nuptials or be prepared to face termination or severe discipline.
“First and foremost, the memorandum ignores federal and state protections afforded to employees who, for reasons of religious faith, cannot participate in the recently court-sanctioned same-sex marriage ceremonies,” said the letter. “Failure to acknowledge the freedom of religious exercise afforded to all North Carolinians by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article I, section 13 of the North Carolina Constitution – and guaranteed in the workplace by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Government Employee Rights Act of 1991 – is a serious oversight that has grave repercussions for our State and the public officials being told to follow the advice provided in the memorandum.”
The letter further faults the memorandum for failing to provide information regarding “existing solutions available to courthouse officials facing these challenges.” The state’s law “affords flexibility to chief district judges, register of deeds and clerks of court to reconcile the duty to follow the law while ensuring that no courthouse officials or employees are forced to compromise on matters of faith to save their jobs,” it reads.
The letter also notes the memorandum exposes the state to federal lawsuits by employees who believe their religious liberties have been infringed.
The letter concludes, “Every part of the United States Constitution must be read together if our freedoms and institutions are to be meaningfully recognized and liberty is to prevail. We encourage you to revise the memorandum to include a comprehensive and correct statement of federal and state law on the doctrine of reasonable accommodation and management flexibility…Our belief is that reasonable people across the state will ensure that events never again reach the point where courthouse officials are asked to sacrifice their religious convictions to keep their jobs.”
According to the Raleigh News and Observer, Smith replied to Senate President Pro Tempore, Phil Berger, claiming: “You will note that our memo stops short of saying that every magistrate in a county must conduct weddings. Only that if any magistrate conducts any weddings, the magistrate must comply with the federal rulings and treat all of our citizens equally until those decisions are reversed, stayed, or vacated. I certainly stand to be corrected on the interpretation and application of the law, and will look into the issue further with our staff as quickly as possible.”
Dr. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League, said Smith’s response was a good example of double-talk. “The memo was certainly clear. It was unquestionably meant to convey that magistrates must perform same-sex marriages, regardless of their religious objections, or they could face serious censure,” he said. “I am thankful to God that Senate Republicans have come to the defense of religious liberty. Any other response is not only exceedingly sinful, but downright un-American,” he added.
NC Voters Still Overwhelmingly Support Traditional Marriage
On Monday, The Civitas Institute released a new poll demonstrating that North Carolinians still strongly support marriage as one man and one woman.
The poll questioned 600 registered voters and found seventy-two percent said they agreed, “Marriage is the union of one man and one woman.” Fifty-nine percent said that the decision to legalize same-sex marriage should be decided by voters, not be a federal judge.
On the very next day, Tuesday, a High Point University poll was released that also found strong support for traditional marriage remains high in the Tar Heel state. According to the poll of just over 800 likely or actual voters, fifty-eight percent said they opposed “allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally,” while only thirty-six percent said they favored it. The poll also revealed that sixty percent disapprove of the “courts requiring North Carolina to recognize same-sex marriage,” while just thirty-seven percent approve.
“I think these polls confirm what we’ve known all along,” said Dr. Creech. “Despite what we constantly hear from the leftist media, there has been no great sea change in support for same-sex marriage. Support for traditional marriage remains as high as it was when voters in our state approved a constitutional amendment defining marriage as one man and one woman. The only sea change is the tsunami of judicial tyrants who out of a pure ideological power play have foisted their will on the people.”
Creech also said voters shouldn’t be so discouraged that they stay away from the polls on Tuesday. He said not to vote for the people who will protect our liberties would be to turn the government over to more of the same kind of people who are causing the problem.