SB2 was passed in June 2015, and allows magistrates to refuse to marry couples if it intrudes on their religious beliefs. If all the magistrates of a county exempt themselves, a magistrate would be brought in with the use of taxpayer dollars to conduct the marriage.
The six plaintiffs, which included couples of both interracial and LGBT identities, filed a complaint against the bill arguing taxpayers’ dollars should not be used.
“You can’t use taxpayers’ money to uphold a religious point of view,” said Luke Largess, a Charlotte-based lawyer, on the lawsuit.
U.S. District Judge Max Cogburn dismissed the complaint, ruling the plaintiffs lacked standing because they were not harmed directly by the law.
“Federal courts never recognized standing by taxpayers,” said Robert Orr, an adjunct professor at the UNC School of Law. “In the federal courts you cannot say your only injury is of a taxpayer — there has to be actual direct harm.”
The six couples were not denied the right to get married, but a magistrate of their county refused to perform their marriage, and they were therefore not harmed or impeded from marrying, said Orr.
“The judge was right based on the precedent of the federal court,” he said.
Couples who come before a magistrate for marriage will not know beforehand if the magistrate will perform their marriage duties because the magistrate’s previous decisions are not public record, Largess said.