thursday, 10 december of 2015

North Carolina law allowing officials to refuse to perform same-sex marriages challenged

A group of same-sex couples filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday challenging a North Carolina law that permits magistrates to refuse to perform same-sex marriages on religious grounds. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of six plaintiffs who seek to overturn North Carolina SB 2, which permits public officials to recuse themselves from duties associated with marriage based on sincerely held religious beliefs. The plaintiffs argue that SB 2 violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment and the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment and are asking the court to rule the law unconstitutional:

Senate Bill 2's primary purpose is to endorse and establish the primacy of a specific religious belief about same sex marriage above the constitutional obligations of magistrates, by exempting any magistrate who opposes such marriages on religious grounds from that judicial obligation. Moreover, the law orders the expenditure of taxpayer funds to accomplish that religious purpose in violation of the Establishment Clause.

The lawsuit seeks to enjoin the state from continuing to implement SB 2. Currently multiple magistrates have refused to perform same-sex marriages, causing the state to bus in magistrates from other districts and limit marriage opportunities for same-sex couples.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights, as well as freedom of religious practice, remain controversial issues in the US. Nineteen states have enacted some variety of religious freedom laws, most modeled after the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act signed into law by Bill Clinton in 1993. Following the US Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges in June, Kentucky clerk Kim Davis refused to issue marriage licenses, arguing that her Christian faith should exempt her from issuing the licenses to same-sex couples. North Carolina lawmakers passed SB 2 in June, overriding a veto by Governor Pat McCrory.

(Published by Jurist – December 9, 2015)

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