Let it not be said that I won’t recognize when someone realizes they were wrong, and changes their direction. 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. You may remember that I’d written an article here at Deep Something about the issues with some North Carolina Magistrates thinking the Evangelical Christians have special rights when it comes to performing government duties. At first Judge Roberson was trying to give some out for those magistrates without creating an inconvenience for LGBT couples. I appreciate his interests here, but the government can give NO quarter to discrimination by government officials.
Judge Roberson’s statement was as follows:
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.
I’m not claiming that it had any influence at all on the Judge’s change of heart, but I’d faxed this letter to his office Friday morning:
Dear Judge Roberson:
For most of my 55 years, I’ve been extremely proud of my North Carolina heritage, but over the past few years, it’s become something of an embarrassment as I’ve watched Tea Party Republicans destroy what was once a great state, and then most recently as the bigotry has really come out of the woodwork over Amendment One.
You have now put yet another nail in that coffin, Judge Roberson, in your refusal to honor the law, and by enabling yet more bigotry by no less than Court officials.
Let me ask you a question Judge? Were I visiting Alamance County, and violated some law or regulation, would I avoid prosecution and accountability if I claimed that violating the law was based on a “consciously held religious belief?” Or, is that particular “get out of jail free card” explicitly for people who happen to think that LGBT people are icky, and/or are court officials?
You see Judge Roberson, we both know this is not based on some biblical understanding of marriage. Trust me, I can refute every single verse your magistrates might offer for justifying their hate for LGBT people. Some knowledge of Greek and the context of the times goes a long way to an intelligent understanding of the Bible.
However, we know that this bigotry really isn’t about the biblical view of marriage. Otherwise your oh so evangelical magistrates would also be refusing to marry divorced people. While Jesus never had anything at all to say about homosexuality, he spoke explicitly about divorce, and he was, as we southerner’s like to say, “agin it.” Since I don’t see your magistrates asking for accommodations relative to marrying divorcees, then we can be certain this is not about a biblical interpretation of marriage rights.
These magistrates swore an oath to uphold the law and Constitution, likely on that same Bible they seem to hold so dear, yet are now refusing to do just that, and you are pandering to their bigotry and aiding and abetting their violation of the law.
I respect and will defend their civil rights, just as I expect of them (especially given they took an Oath to uphold the Constitution). However, you would be correct that I do expect them to check their religious beliefs at their workplace door, given that their workplace is the government, which can give no quarter to discrimination. By performing their jobs, and legally prescribed government functions, they are not being discriminated against.
Their religious freedoms are not being violated. They still have the right to hate gay people. They have the right to go to any church this Sunday morning, and pray to any god they choose, and say whatever prayer they want. Heck Judge Roberson, I don’t even care which sacred text they used when they took their oaths of office, and I’m also fine with them using none. But no…no sir, they are not entitled to discriminate against me, you, or anyone else in their official duties as an officer of the government.
And you sir, ought to be ashamed of yourself for being complicit in this obvious bigotry. I am sad for you and your legacy. If you believe you have some justification for your actions, I invite you to share those. My contact information in above, and I’d be interested in how you arrived at this position.
So whatever caused Judge Roberson to change is mind, and come down on the side of civil rights equality, I think him.