NC Republicans Want to Allow Government Discrimination

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.

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  • Michael Heath

    We often debate the mix of behaviors we’re observing from conservative Christians where the two ingredients are frequently ignorant idiocy and/or cynical disingenuousness. I typically argue our observations are weighted towards ignorant idiocy being the predominant ingredient; even when the protagonist is someone like Ted Cruz, Mitt Romney, or Rick Santorum.

    I think the classic example when this question is raised is when conservative Christians frame the government as a collection of individuals not acting as the government. That in order to defend bigoted Christian privilege at the expense of other people’s rights and wellbeing. That’s exactly what we observe here.

    Here I think we’re observing cynical disingenuousness rather than ignorant idiocy, not that the former isn’t also idiotic. That’s because this initiative’s coming from this tribe’s leaders and was written out in advance rather than a reaction when talking.

  • John Pieret

    To have any chance to survive a Federal court challenge, any such law will have to ensure that there will be a sane magistrate on duty at all times to marry gays on the same basis (cost, availability, etc.) as the exempted magistrates would supply. In short, the state will have to pay to duplicate the costs of those magistrates it exempts. Republicans doing away with wasteful government spending once again!

  • hunter

    Does anyone else smell a big old Establishment Clause violation here?

  • whheydt

    I am reminded of the time California had a very restrictive “anti-pornography” measure on the ballot, nicknamed “the Clean Amendment”. It was doing moderately well until a group went public saying that, if it passed, they were going to file to have the Gideon Society charged with distributing obscene literature under its provision. The measure failed.

    in this case, what is needed for an existing or potential Magistrate to stand up and say that, if this measure is enacted, he will refuse to marry Christian couples based on his options under this law. Then watch the Cherenkov radiation from the retreating supporters of the bill.

  • BobApril

    One of the things that was made very clear to me both when I became a government employee as a member of the military, and again when I became a government employee with the USPS, is that doing so meant accepting a certain curtailing of my constitutional rights while I was on the job. Perhaps North Carolina needs to add that education to their hiring process for state employees.

  • Larry

    In response to the NC legislature’s enabling discrimination, I envision the federal court ruling coming down like that big foot during the old Monty Python intros and squashing said legislature whilst the Sousa’s Liberty Bell March plays

  • Michael Heath

    BobApril writes:

    One of the things that was made very clear to me both when I became a government employee as a member of the military, and again when I became a government employee with the USPS, is that doing so meant accepting a certain curtailing of my constitutional rights while I was on the job.

    Which I’ve long presumed is true for nearly all jobs, particularly in the area of speech, gun rights, petition, religious exercise, association, and I bet other protected rights I fail to mention here.

  • Michael Heath

    Nice seeing your posts BobApril, it’s been awhile.

  • zmidponk

    I am assuming that Mr Berger follows the usual Republican stance of being against gun control. If that’s the case, I wonder what his answer would be if someone asked him if it was therefore perfectly OK for a Christian pacificist to refuse to issue gun licenses because of their religious beliefs.

  • Zugswang

    This sounds a lot like the same kind of GOP baloney about pharmacists being able to refuse dispensing birth control. Other religions have prohibitions against working in fields that run counter to their ethics, but this concept seems lost on the usual suspects.

  • cry4turtles

    If I worked in one of these offices where christofacists were refusing to marry gay couples, I would have to slam everything I possibly could on my desk, knock my chair over standing up, stomp across the floor, and proclaim loudly to the christofacist, “I’ll marry them you fucking bigoted asshole!”

  • M’thew

    Oh dear, that sounds a bit like a replay from the Dutch situation. Forerunner though we were in the Netherlans by legalising SSM as the first nation in the world, politicians did allow for marriage officiants to refuse to perform these marriages (the so called “weigerambtenaren”) if this conflicted with their religious beliefs (yes, we do have our bible belt here as well, with very staunch Christians who, on rare occasions, will even speak out against develish modern fads such as democracy). This little bit of pandering to the religious right was supported by theologians who pleaded for taking marriage out of the town halls, and letting the state only register civil partnerships instead (sounds familiar?).

    Thank goodness this nonsense came to an end earlier this year, when the Dutch Senate with a large majority voted for a law that states that new marriage officiants are bound to perform SSM and have no right to refuse to do so. It’s a bit of a shame that existing officiants are still allowed to claim reasons of conscience not to do it, but at least they’ll slowly die out.

    Took us 13 years to get that far, but I guess that’s the dialectics of progress.

  • dugglebogey

    We have a phrase for people who refuse to grant people their constitutionally protected rights. It’s called “Illegal discrimination” and it’s prosecuted by law.