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Oct 17, 2014

Judge Reverses Course Requiring All Alamance Magistrates Marry Same-Sex Couples, Equality NC Responds

RALEIGH, N.C. (October 17, 2014) -- Equality NC, the state's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) organization, responded to news that the judge supervising Alamance County magistrates has reversed course and will now require all country magistrates perform same-sex marriages or face immediate consequences.

Chief District Court Judge Jim Roberson released a statement late Friday saying that all magistrates must comply with the law and perform same-sex marriages, saying: “To provide clarification in light of recent court decisions regarding the marriage law in North Carolina, all magistrates serving in Alamance County are required, as a part of their official duties, to perform marriage ceremonies for any and all eligible couples under North Carolina law presenting themselves for marriage. Additionally, a recently released legal memo, prepared by chief counsel for the Administrative Office of the Courts, and legal opinion issued by the University Of North Carolina School Of Government, conclude that the law in North Carolina requires a magistrate to perform each and every duty associated with the position in order to continue to serve as a magistrate. All Alamance County magistrates will comply with the law.”

Chief District Court Judge Jim Roberson

Earlier this week, Judge Roberson had defended magistrates who say they won’t perform legal, civil same-sex marriages, asking for a “compromise” that allows some magistrates to opt out of their legally-mandated obligations.

That "compromise" would have violated clear directives sent earlier in the week by the North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts that demanded all magistrates carry out the new marriage law or face dismissal, fines, or criminal charges.

Equality NC's Executive Director Chris Sgro immediately responded to Roberson's reversal, calling the judge's decision "just" and congruent with the law in North Carolina.

"From the very beginning Equality NC's expectations have remained as clear and firm as the judicial orders from Judges Osteen and Cogburn: the entire state of North Carolina is enjoined from enforcing Amendment One and all gay and lesbian couples seeking marriages now in North Carolina should be treated by state officials with the same dignity and respect as the couples before them," said Sgro.

"Today in Alamance County, Chief District Judge Jim Roberson fulfilled those expectations and took just and legal action by mandating that all magistrates working in Alamance, as is true in all 100 counties in this state, conduct marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples or face immediate consequences."

Sgro added, "Equality NC was proud of the opportunity to work hand-inhand with officials at the county, state, and federal level throughout the week to ensure this guidance was not only clear but also swift and we are pleased that Judge Roberson has as of today righted the course for same-sex couples in Alamance County. In the meantime, Equality NC and our attorneys will continue to monitor the situation there and make sure that the law is being followed.

Amid this incident, it is important to understand that problems experienced by North Carolina's same-sex couples seeking the freedom to marry for the most part have been isolated. In the vast majority of the almost two-thirds of North Carolina counties that have issued well over 400 marriage licenses to same-sex couples since October 10th, pro-equality elected officials in all corners of our state have welcomed these couples with open arms and minds. In the end, we hope the first week of marriage equality in North Carolina will be remembered for how smoothly and joyfully these events took place, rather than any rare and swiftly corrected incidences of intolerance."

Equality NC has been monitoring efforts to discriminate against LGBT couples in Alamance, Pasquotank and elsewhere. The organization encourages same-sex couples who experience discrimination to email enc@equalitync.org.

ABOUT EQUALITY NC: Equality NC is the statewide organization working to secure equal rights and justice for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender North Carolinians.

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