In the wake of the legalization of same-sex marriage in North Carolina as a result of an appeals court ruling, at least three magistrates have resigned so they don’t have to perform marriages for those icky people. Now Republicans in the legislature want to give them the right to discriminate.
A top North Carolina Republican said Tuesday that he will back a bill protecting state officials who refuse to issue marriage licenses or perform weddings for same-sex couples.
Senate Leader Phil Berger Sr. said he will introduce legislation in response to a magistrate in his home county who decided to resign instead of agreeing to marry gays, citing his personal religious views.
The state court system has said any magistrates who refuse to heed the recent federal court ruling striking down the state’s same-sex marriage ban are violating their oaths and could face dismissal. Berger said magistrates and registers of deeds who refuse service to gay couples are within their rights under constitutional protections guaranteeing freedom of religion.“The court’s expansion of the freedoms of some should not violate the well-recognized constitutional rights of others,” said Berger, R-Rockingham. “Complying with the new marriage law imposed by the courts should not require our state employees to compromise their core religious beliefs and First Amendment rights in order to protect their livelihoods.”
Wrong. State employees do not have any “well-recognized constitutional right” to refuse to offer government services to anyone for any reason. A Muslim teacher who thinks girls shouldn’t go to school can’t refuse to teach girls. A Christian county clerk who thinks women shouldn’t work outside the home can’t refuse to issue a business license to a woman. And it doesn’t matter what their “core religious beliefs” are on the matter. The Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment requires, at the very least, that all citizens are treated exactly the same way under the laws of the land. And if the law says they can get married, a clerk cannot refuse to issue them a license and any other official who performs weddings cannot refuse to perform them.