While the furor against North Carolina’s HB2 continues to have economic implications for the state, another controversy has also arisen. A federal judge has dismissed a challenge to the North Carolina law that allows magistrates to “opt out” of performing same-sex marriages citing religious objections.
The opt-out law was passed in 2015, spurred on by social conservatives demanding “religious freedom bills”. The bill – Senate Bill 2 – passed the same month the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage.
Data from 2015 showed that at least 32 North Carolina magistrates had exempted themselves thus far. The magistrates who do so must also opt out of performing any other marriage, gay or heterosexual, for six months.
The lawsuit at hand was filed by three couples, on the grounds that their tax dollars were being used to perpetuate a violation of the Constitution. They argued that the legislation placed religious beliefs before the magistrates’ sworn obligation to carry out the law, breaching the equal-protection provision in the Constitution.
Although US District Judge Max Cogburn conceded that citizens could suffer “real or emotional harm” from the opt-out law, he finally ruled that the plaintiffs had not presented satisfactory evidence that they had been harmed by the law, and dismissed the case. It’s worth noting as well that Cogburn was the judge who had struck down the North Carolina ban on same-sex marriage in 2014.
The six plaintiffs said that they will appeal the ruling next Tuesday. Read more over at Reuters.