John M. Becker

NC Magistrate Refuses to Marry Gay Couple

Filed By John M. Becker | October 14, 2014 1:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: Christianists, gay marriage, marriage equality, North Carolina, same-sex marriage, special rights

north-carolina-map.jpgA magistrate in Pasquotank County, North Carolina turned away a same-sex couple who went to the county courthouse in Elizabeth City yesterday to get married, according to a report from the Virginian-Pilot. The official flatly refused to perform their wedding, stating that same-sex marriages go against his personal religious beliefs.

William Locklear and his partner showed up at the county courthouse Monday expecting to get married after 31 years together.

The couple didn't get the chance. A magistrate turned them away. "He said, 'I won't be performing your marriage because of my religious beliefs,'" Locklear said.

A federal judge struck down the state's gay marriage ban late Friday. Monday was the first full business day that same-sex marriages could be performed.

The magistrate's refusal isn't just repugnant -- it's also illegal, Pasquotank County Clerk of Superior Court Connie Thornley told the Virginian-Pilot. Thornley said that magistrates must comply with the law and marry gay couples, or they risk losing their jobs. "They cannot refuse," she added.

Locklear and his partner, Randall Jackson, were married today by a different magistrate (who, interestingly, substituted the word "partner" for the standard marital terminology).

Now that marriage equality is the law of the land in North Carolina, if anti-gay magistrates cannot obey the law -- and keep their private religious beliefs separate from the fulfillment of their public duties to the citizens of that state -- their only option is to resign. Thornley says she is worried that one or more of her magistrates might choose to resign rather than follow the law, which could lead to a shortage.

Since magistrates in North Carolina are nominated by county clerks of court, Thornley can solve this problem very easily in the future, by not nominating homophobes. A delightfully simple solution, isn't it?

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