After it gave the bill a perfunctory review and then ignored it, there was hope that the North Carolina House had decided, smartly, to deep-six the discriminatory Senate proposal to allow North Carolina magistrates to opt out of marrying same sex couples. Now, sadly, the measure is back and scheduled to be heard in committee today.
Fortunately, the chances of this discriminatory proposal actually ever going into effect remain highly questionable. As reporter Sharon McCloskey explains over on the main Policy Watch site this morning, the bill is a successful lawsuit waiting to happen:
“If the bill passes in the House and becomes law, it would be the first of its kind in the country, according to Katharine Franke, a professor at Columbia University School of Law and director of its Center for Gender & Sexuality Law.
(A similar bill in Texas recently failed after corporations there voiced their opposition.)
And in the eyes of legal experts, it would be unquestionably unconstitutional.
Meanwhile, the Charlotte Observer explains in an excellent editorial this morning why it should never get that far:
“Magistrates in North Carolina take two oaths when they are sworn into office.
‘I, (state your name), do solemnly and sincerely swear that I will support the Constitution of the United States,’ they say in the first oath.
‘I, (state your name), do solemnly swear that I will administer justice without favoritism to anyone or to the State; … and that I will faithfully and impartially discharge all the duties (of the job) to the best of my ability…’ they say in the second.
The courts have ruled that the U.S. Constitution makes gay marriage legal in North Carolina. And performing marriages is one of the duties of the magistrate’s job. Magistrates who refuse to perform a legal marriage are violating both of their oaths of office.
The House Judiciary Committee meets Wednesday to consider changing that. The panel is scheduled to take up Senate Bill 2, which allows magistrates and assistant registers of deeds to recuse themselves from performing marriages ‘based upon any sincerely held religious objection.’
The bill legalizes discrimination. It is a last-gasp response to a long string of court rulings giving equal rights to same-sex partners that will likely culminate in a similar Supreme Court ruling this summer….
Besides being morally wrong, Senate Bill 2 is unconstitutional. If it were to pass it would likely prompt yet another expensive court challenge, and it would ultimately be struck down.”