Greensboro News & Record columnist Susan Ladd does a great job of skewering state Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger’s ridiculous “religious freedom” for magistrates legislation today in this essay.

“It’s appalling that the first order of business for our state legislature would be to reinstate Jim Crow. Or should we call it James Crow? Jane Crow? Jim Crow 2.0?

Discrimination by any name smells just as sour.

But discrimination is precisely what the bill introduced Wednesday by state Sen. Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) allows. Currently titled the Magistrates Recusal of Civil Ceremonies, the bill falls under the general heading of “religious freedom” laws sweeping the country after the legalization of same-sex marriage in many states.”

She goes on:

“Though this bill is narrower in scope than ‘religious freedom’ laws that have been attempted in other states, it still legislates discrimination and limits the rights of groups that could be targeted by a religious objection….

Because this bill doesn’t specify, however, magistrates presumably would be free to recuse themselves from performing other marriages that violated their religious beliefs. Religion is a very malleable thing, having been used to object to all kinds of practices. But let’s take an obvious case.

A magistrate opposed to interracial marriage simply could cite the passage used by the Virginia circuit court judge in 1959, when he convicted Richard and Mildred Loving of the crime of interracial marriage.”

Here’s the excellent conclusion:

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Paul Stam 2

State Rep. Paul Stam

If you had any hopes that this year’s version of the North Carolina General Assembly would be less reactionary than the last two, these should have been quickly dashed in recent days by the announcement that the 2015 session will commence its substantive work next Wednesday with a “briefing” on a bill to sanction and promote discrimination against the state’s LGBT population.

The proposal comes, of course, from that irrepressible foe of tolerance and modernity, Rep. Paul Stam of Wake County — a man who has devoted the lion’s share of his years in elected office to advancing a narrow and backward-looking social agenda. Under this latest proposal, Stam would attempt to allow registers of deeds and magistrates to opt out of serving LGBT citizens seeking marriage licenses if doing so “would violate their core religious beliefs.” No word yet on whether Stam would allow similar treatment of officials with “religious” objections to interracial marriage.

Happily, there is a deep and growing wellspring of opposition to Stam’s sham. Chris Sgro of Equality NC does a fine job of explaining this opposition on the editorial page of this morning’s edition of Raleigh’s News & Observer. Here is an excerpt: Read More


When my family first started attending Pullen Memorial Baptist Church in Raleigh several years ago, there was a little boy who was about the same age as our youngest daughter. His name was Max and he had a younger sister named Erin. The kids stood out a little because both Max and Erin were African-American and their two dads, Nathan and Dave, were white. I learned at the time from a close friend who knew the family well that the two kids had been adopted out of extremely rough, impoverished circumstances. The term “crack baby” was used.

By all appearances, though, the kids seemed pretty doggone normal and the parents were clearly loving and attentive. I have a vivid memory of one of the dads holding a wriggling Erin, dressed in her finest holiday dress, as Max portrayed one of the animals in the children’s Christmas play.

As the years went on and Max and his family moved away, I heard occasionally through my friend that they were doing well (Max had actually been admitted to West Point!) and took it as a remarkable testament to the power of love to overcome some of the worst things that society has to dish out — namely the grinding poverty from which the kids were rescued and the absurd and hateful discrimination that I knew the family still found itself subjected to regularly.

And then last night, my Pullen friend passed along this amazing story from writer S.L. Price of Sports Illustrated that fills in a lot of the details I had missed in recent years. Unless you are one of the shrinking number of troubled souls still clinging to a closed heart and mind on the question of LGBT equality, I promise you will be unable to read it or watch the accompanying video without feeling a lump in your throat. Indeed, it may happen even if you are — I sure hope so.


Gay marriage 2So, if the “religious beliefs” of a public official (like, for instance, a register of deeds) cause him or her one to oppose interracial marriage or, say, marriage between heterosexuals who are incapable of procreation, should that public official have the right to decline to issue marriage licenses to such couples?

According to the ironically-named North Carolina Values Coalition, the answer to that question is, by all appearances, “yes.” How else to explain the group’s efforts late last week to “inform” public officials throughout the state that they are free to decline to issue licenses to same-sex couples if to do so would violate “their conscience”?

Happily, the good people at Equality NC are speaking up to refute this nonsensical propaganda. This is from a release the group distributed late last Friday: Read More

George Wallace attempts to block the integration of the University of Alabama - Source: Wikipedia

George Wallace attempts to block the integration of the University of Alabama – Photo: Wikipedia

If you haven’t already done so, be sure to check out today’s Fitzsimon File in which Chris explains the current state of the debate over marriage equality in North Carolina. The quick takeaways:

#1 – There is cause for joy and celebration that the end of this particular form of discrimination is finally coming to a richly-deserved end.

#2- That said, there is a very long way to go in a state in which LGBT people can still be summarily fired for who they are.

#3- Today’s last-ditch effort by Senate leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Thom Tillis to block the inevitable is eerily reminiscent of George Wallace’s infamous effort to block the integration of the University of Alabama by standing in the “schoolhouse door.”

As Chris writes: Read More