Oct 162014
This entry is part 15 of 35 in the series Gay Marriage
Judge James Roberson

Alamance County Chief Judge James Roberson

Unfortunately there are some magistrates in North Carolina who don’t understand about doing their jobs. a magistrate judge in Pasquotank County on Monday refused to marry two men, citing religious objections. Some magistrates in Alamance County also said they wouldn’t marry gay couples.

I am flummoxed by Chief District Court Judge Jim Roberson of Alamance County who said that some of the 11 magistrates under his supervision didn’t want to officiate same-sex marriage ceremonies. “As a team, we’re going to abide by the law,” Roberson told the Times-News of Burlington. “Some of our magistrates have concerns based on their faiths and religious beliefs. I completely respect that. Other magistrates do not.” Roberson said a magistrate comfortable with performing the ceremony would step in if another declined.

“I highly respect people’s legitimate, deep-seated, consciously held religious beliefs. I also highly respect people’s individual rights. Trying to balance those two is where my goal is right now,” Roberson said Wednesday, “finding that balance where we can assure the public the law will be followed and marriage ceremonies will be performed as requested.”

Well, let’s just be straight up about this. BULLSHIT. Here’s part of what I wrote in a fax to Judge Roberson:

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?

But 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.

I do have to give credit where credit is due, and the Administrative Office of the Courts has stepped up. A memo released Tuesday to all North Carolina magistrates, judges and Superior Court clerks says that refusing to perform a same-sex marriage “violates the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution.” Refusing to perform the weddings on any grounds is thus a willful violation of a magistrate’s oath and duty to uphold the U.S. Constitution, it states. “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. 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.”

Failure to perform a duty of the office is, by the way, a Class 1 Misdemeanor.

And of course, Tony Perkins (frequent speaker at meetings of white supremacist meetings, and head of the SPLC-designated hate group, Family Research Council), wasn’t about to let this opportunity pass him by.

“Pasquotank County is hard to pronounce — but it’s not nearly as difficult as pronouncing two women ‘wife and wife.’ That’s how North Carolina Magistrate Gary Littleton felt when a same-sex couple asked him to ‘marry’ them at a courthouse this week. Unfortunately for Littleton, his constitutional rights are of no concern to local liberals, who insist that the judge should have to check his religious beliefs at the workplace door. Like the overwhelming majority of Tar Heels, Littleton probably voted to define marriage as the union of a man and woman in 2012. Now, two years later, he doesn’t believe that a handful of unelected judges should be able to override his vote — and the vote of 1,317,177 others. Yesterday, the county met to determine if Littleton could face criminal charges for exercising the freedom the First Amendment guarantees. While he and other clerks await their fate, a federal judge has given Speaker of the North Carolina House, Thom Tillis, the right to defend his state’s marriage amendment in court. An appeal could kick the issue back to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, which struck down Virginia’s law.”

So here’s my response to Perkins’ statement, “…his constitutional rights are of no concern to local liberals, who insist that the judge should have to check his religious beliefs at the workplace door.”

Yes, Ms Perkins, his constitutional rights are of great concern to me. I respect and will defend them, just as I expect Mr. Littleton to do (especially given he took an Oath to uphold the Constitution). But you are correct that I do expect him to check his religious beliefs at his workplace door, given that his workplace is the government, which can give no quarter to discrimination. Mr. Littleton isn’t being discriminated against. He still has the right to hate gay people, he has the right to go to any church he wants Sunday morning, and pray to any god he chooses, and say whatever prayer he wants. Heck Tony, I don’t even care which sacred text he uses when he takes his oath of office, and I’m also fine with him not using any. But no…no, he’s not entitled to discriminate against me, you, or anyone else in his official duties as an officer of the government.

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