In the wake of last month’s disappointing U.S. Supreme Court decision forcing marriage redefinition on every state, magistrates and registers of deeds employees across North Carolina are utilizing the state’s new religious liberty law to recuse themselves from involvement in marriage ceremonies that violate their conscience. The new law, Senate Bill 2—Magistrates Recusal of Civil Ceremonies, took effect June 11 following votes in the State House and Senate overriding Governor Pat McCrory’s veto of the legislation. SB 2 allows magistrates to recuse from performing all marriage ceremonies, and it allows deputy and assistant registers of deeds to recuse from issuing all marriage licenses, for a period of at least six months as long as the recusal is “based upon any sincerely held religious objection.” It also shields these public officials from punishment or disciplinary action for a recusal that is made in “good-faith.”
According to the News and Observer, the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) reports that 14 magistrates in North Carolina have sought recusals from performing marriages under SB 2 since the law went into effect on June 11, 2015. Additionally, the N&O reports that five of the 100 county registers of deeds offices have had employees recuse themselves from issuing marriage licenses since SB 2 took effect.
“Thanks to the General Assembly’s enactment of this important law, North Carolina’s magistrates and registers of deeds staff no longer have to choose between their deeply held religious belief about marriage and their jobs,” said NC Family president, John L. Rustin. “SB2 is an important first step in protecting the First Amendment rights of every North Carolinian to continue to freely exercise their beliefs about marriage as the union of one man and one woman.”
Information for magistrates who wish to recuse themselves from performing marriage ceremonies due to their religious faith is available on the AOC resource page, which includes a guidance memo on SB 2, as well as necessary forms and other information on same-sex “marriages.”