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Feb 11, 2015

Equality NC Condemns Magistrates Lawsuit

RALEIGH, N.C. (February 11, 2015) -- Equality NC, North Carolina’s largest LGBT advocacy organization, today condemned a lawsuit filed this week by two North Carolina magistrates who are suing court officials in an effort to opt out of their responsibility to marry same-sex couples.

As WRAL reported on Tuesday, the lawsuit states, "Defendants' directive that Plaintiffs must solemnize same-sex relationships as 'marriages' or face suspension, termination, fines and/or criminal prosecution, with no exception or accommodation for Plaintiffs' sincerely held belief, compels Plaintiffs to affirm a belief that is contrary to Plaintiffs' fundamental worldview and to the worldview upon which the state and country were founded."

Chris Sgro, executive director of Equality NC, shot back, calling the lawsuit a futile attempt by a few magistrates to "pick and choose" which laws they follow.

"This week, two North Carolina public officials have asked a court to provide them with legal solution to their desire to pick and choose the laws they follow," said Sgro. "It goes without saying that the First Amendment already protects their religious freedom. No one can tell any North Carolina magistrate or any other public official what they can or cannot believe. But if they want to be magistrates in North Carolina, they cannot stop doing their jobs simply because they don't want to follow the law as it exists, deny fellow taxpaying North Carolinians basic services, and, in the process, make their neighbors into second-class citizens.

Sgro added, "The North Carolina we know believes in respecting the law, doing your job, and treating people fairly, and no cynical lawsuit brought by a few public officials will change that."

The lawsuit comes amid a bill filed by Sen. Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) in the General Assembly that would permit any magistrate or register of deeds employee to recuse himself or herself from performing any marriage for a period of six months for "sincerely held religious objection." The bill has yet to be be debated.

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