Raleigh’s News & Observer has a fine editorial this morning in which it fricassees the state Senate over the absurd bill it approved today to establish a “separate but equal” marriage system for the state. As the editorial noted:
“Sworn public officials have to do their duty, and this not-so-clever bit of legislating is certain to be found unconstitutional. Magistrates and registers of deeds don’t get to cop out of their jobs based on their personal beliefs.
This is amateur hour at the General Assembly, and a petty action that could get expensive. The legislature already has spent nearly $100,000 to have outside lawyers appeal the federal rulings on same-sex marriage. State Attorney General Roy Cooper, a Democrat, wisely decided not to press on with appeals once the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the issue.
If the high court rules that laws banning gay marriage are unconstitutional, it follows that a silly maneuver like this one regarding magistrates will fall quickly in the courts as well.”
Another issue the authors might have noted and that Senator Angela Bryant and others rightfully emphasized in today’s debate is the question of “what constitutes a ‘sincere religious belief’?” Will it now be okay for magistrates who have “sincere religious” objections to interracial marriage to opt out of their jobs?
And, for that matter, what about other providers of public services? What if a schoolteacher’s sincere religious belief forbids the teaching of boys and girls together in the same classroom? What if an E.M.T. converts to a religion that forbids blood transfusions?
Senator Newton, one of the the bill’s chief defenders, made clear in his defense of Senate Bill 2 today that a magistrate could have a heartfelt conversion on the matter on Sunday and show up for work the next day and ask to be exempted from performing marriages. Under such “logic,” however, it’s hard to see where all this will end.
Shouldn’t ticket takers at state museums have the right to refuse to serve families with two moms or two dads if their “sincere religious beliefs” tell them that them they are abetting a crime against God by doing so? What about a clerk in the state Treasurer’s office whose religion forbids the collection of interest on loans and asks to be exempted from processing documents on the subject?
As the N&O rightfully points out, passage of the bill into law will set North Carolina on an expensive and futile course. It will also, quite clearly, be a dangerously slippery slope.