Former magistrates in North Carolina filed a lawsuit earlier in February asking for the ability to recuse themselves from officiating same-sex marriages due to their religious beliefs.
Legislators in North Carolina, as well as some other states, are attempting to get around federal court rulings by introducing bills that would allow magistrates to abstain from issuing gay marriage licenses based on “sincerely held beliefs.”
The state Senate on Wednesday voted 32-16 in favor of a bill that would allow magistrates the choice not to perform marriages due to their own religious beliefs. Mike Meno, spokesman for the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina, said that this measure could include more than just same-sex couples. Interracial couples, couples of different religions and others could all be affected by this bill.
“We are very concerned that the state is considering legislation that would allow government officials do this and to treat people like second-class citizens,” Meno said.
The chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, Roy Moore, said judges should not issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples until a federal court ruling mandated that the licenses be issued.
UNC law professor Maxine Eichner said the federal courts’ decisions on this matter should trump any state’s “political resistance.”
The U.S. Supreme Court is slated to rule on gay marriage’s constitutionality by the summer, and many are expecting a victory for same-sex couples.
“It seems very difficult to think that at this point they would say that the federal equal protection guarantee does not speak to the issue of same-sex marriage bans,” Eichner said.
Meno and Jonah Hermann, Equality N.C.’s outreach director, both expect the Supreme Court to hand down a ruling in favor of marriage equality.
“We have made tremendous progress in this nation, and we fully expect the Supreme Court and hope the Supreme Court will be ruling in favor of same-sex couples, and we will have full marriage equality in this nation,” Hermann said.
Eichner said state legislatures should not attempt to supersede federal rulings, particularly as they await the Supreme Court’s decision.
“I don’t think lawmakers should react,” Eichner said. “We have a supremacy clause and the federal constitution is supreme, and what lawmakers need to do at this point is allow the ruling of these federal judges to go into effect.”
UNC freshman Nikki Trupiano said that with the consistent evolution of society, she thinks a ruling in favor of marriage equality is very likely.
“The court systems eventually keep up to where society is heading,” Trupiano said. “If not now, I think it will definitely be ruled for in the next few years.”