Despite the fact that the same sex marriage ban was lifted last week, a magistrate in a Pasquotank County, North Carolina, refused to marry a gay couple on Monday.
The Inquisitr reported that North Carolina was one of the five states in which the gay marriage ban was lifted last week. Even so, NC magistrate Gary Littleton refused to marry the couple, saying that it was against his religious belief that marriage should be between one man and one woman.
ABC News reports that his action goes against orders issued by the state Administrative Office of the Courts that all judicial personnel perform same sex marriage ceremonies the same as they would for heterosexual couples after last week’s ruling by a federal judge.
Sharon Gladwell, a spokesperson for the State courts, said that she is not aware of any other magistrates who have refused to marry gay couples. However, according to the Charlotte Observer, after Littleton’s refusal to perform the ceremony, some magistrates in Alamance County also said they would refuse to marry gay couples.
Under state law, a magistrate who fails to perform his or her legal duties can face removal or suspension.
On Wednesday, Pamela Weaver Best, general counsel for the North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts, sent a letter to state magistrates, saying they would be violating their oaths of office if they refused to marry same sex couples.
Best said magistrates who refuse to marry gay or lesbian couples will face suspension or dismissal as well as misdemeanor criminal charges for failing to discharge their duties.
“If a valid marriage license… is presented, it is a statutory duty of the magistrate to conduct the marriage between the persons named in the license in the same manner as the magistrate would conduct any other marriage,” Best wrote. “A failure to do so would be a violation of the U.S. Constitution under the federal ruling, and would constitute a violation of the oath and a failure to perform a duty of the office.”
Chief District Judge Christopher Bean said that no charges will be filed against Littleton unless a formal complaint is filed. As of now, the couple is not pressing charges. Bean added that Littleton will not be seeking reappointment to his magistrate’s position when his term ends in December of this year, but that was a decision he had made before he refused to marry the gay couple.
“As a team, we’re going to abide by the law,” Alamance County Chief District Court Judge Jim Roberson said. “Some of our magistrates have concerns based on their faiths and religious beliefs. I completely respect that. Other magistrates do not.”
Roberson said that another magistrate who is comfortable with performing same sex marriages will step in for those who aren’t.
What do you think? Should a person be allowed to refuse to do his or her job based on religious beliefs? Or should he or she have to get another job?
[Image via The Austin Times]