The rapid expansion of same-sex “marriage” state by state has been fueled by federal court rulings that conflict with voter initiatives.
But as the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to hear arguments on the issue, some state judges are fighting back, arguing that the institution that predates government should not be cast aside for current social trends.
Two former North Carolina magistrates, for example, claim in a lawsuit in Wake County Superior Court that they were forced to quit their jobs because court administrators ordered them to perform same-sex weddings.
They want the state to follow its own constitution and return them to their jobs with an acknowledgment that they are not required to perform weddings for same-sex duos.
Of the 36 states that have legalized same-sex marriage, about two dozen were ordered by a single judge.
There was significant resistance in only one state. The Alabama Supreme Court told its judiciary in February that U.S. District Judge Callie Granade’s order to issue a marriage license to two men doesn’t change the state’s law and constitution.
The Alabama justices ordered state judges to abide by the state constitution, which recognizes marriage only as the union of one man and one woman.
According to Courthouse News, Thomas Holland and Gilbert Breedlove now have sued in Wake County Superior Court over direct orders and threats by the North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts.
WND has compiled a “Big List of Christian Coercion” with dozens of cases in which Christians have been fined, threatened or penalized for recognizing the biblical definition of marriage. A petition has been created in support of ordinances that allow Christian business owners to live by their faith.
According to the complaint, the office director, John Smith, refused to accommodate the magistrates’ religious beliefs by ordering them to perform same-sex marriages.
The court office, according to the report, ordered last year, “Magistrates should begin immediately conducting marriages of all couples presenting a marriage license issued by the register of deeds.”
The threats followed immediately: “A failure to do so would be 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.”
Penalties include possible suspension, removal from office and criminal counts, the office warned.
The report said Smith elaborated in a letter to a state senator that his office “would not accommodate any magistrate who felt compelled to refuse to participate in a same-sex marriage ceremony for religious reasons and that any magistrate who attempted to avoid participating in a same-sex marriage ceremony could face civil liability.”
However, the report notes that the North Carolina Constitution provides “all persons have a natural and inalienable right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own consciences.”
“No person shall be denied the equal protection of the laws; nor shall any person be subjected to discrimination by the State because of race, color, religion, or national origin.”
The plaintiffs ask that the court system allow them to live according to their belief that marriage “is the sacred union of one man and one woman.”
Courthouse News reported the claim states: “Defendants have an obligation to perform their duties in a manner consistent with the North Carolina Constitution including not interfering with plaintiffs’ rights protected by Article I, Section 13 and not discriminating against plaintiffs on the basis of religion as prohibited by Article I, Section 19.”
Both Holland, who lives in Graham County, and Breedlove, of Swain County, resigned in 2014 in response to the threats by the state.
They seek orders from the courts that they be reinstated with back pay and lost benefits, as well as a permanent injunction enjoining Smith and the courts office from acting against them.
A blog at Allgov.com said it was ironic that the magistrates were arguing their case for religious freedom on similar grounds that a federal appeals court created same-sex marriage for the state – “due process and equal protection of the laws.”
And at the Federalist, writer Ben Domenech said there’s a battle raging “over whether religious people can continue to hold public officers that administer marriages without violating their personal beliefs.”
Both magistrates had been on the job about 24 years.
“It’s similar to cases we’ve seen in other instances regarding requirements placed on pharmacists to supply birth control or of postal workers to sign people up for selective service over religious objections, but it’s more fundamental than that. The statute in question says the magistrate has the power to officially recognize certain transactions, such as marriage. It doesn’t say the magistrate shall recognize marriages.”
A Woman of Grace blog post at the time the controversy developed in 2014 said it actually was six judges who resigned over the issue, though only two are suing so far.
Breedlove, who also is a Baptist minister, said at the time: “I had no choice but to resign. I couldn’t in good conscience (officiate at a same-sex wedding) and still hold my head up as a pastor and preacher of the Word of God,”
The blog post said, “If those laws are crafted in such a way that strips believers of the right to practice their faith, then Christians will continue to suffer.”
WND has done a series of reports on friend-of-the-court briefs submitted in advance of the ruling that will come in a case out of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. There, the judges ruled residents of states are allowed to define marriage.
A brief filed on behalf of the state of Alabama said the case was about more than just marriage.
“It is also about the proper role of the federal courts in scrutinizing state policy decisions. The presumption is that state laws are constitutional. And they should be subject to searching federal-court review only if they differentiate based on a suspect classification or impact a fundamental right,” the brief says.
Neither applies in this case, the brief explains.
“The Constitution’s guarantees of equal protection and due process allow no more searching judicial review than this: courts must verify that the challenged law is rationally related to a legitimate state interest. … Petitioners [who want orders for same-sex ‘marriage’] cannot overcome this deferential standard. They challenge an institution that has been accepted from time immemorial by diverse cultures.”
An order for changes could have far-reaching effects, the brief warns.
“If the traditional definition of marriage is not a rational basis for legislative action, it is hard to imagine what is. Put another way, if rational-basis review invalidates traditional marriage, it seems likely that few other laws would be safe from the federal courts.”
Such a determination “would enable federal courts, through mere disagreement with the wisdom or utility of state policy, to overturn scores of state laws that afford government benefits or impose government costs on some (but not all) citizens. That result would undermine federalism, liberty, and our nation’s democratic processes.”
WND reported longtime conservative leader Pat Buchanan urged Christians to fight the “LGBT fanatics” who are demanding they betray their faith, even if it means civil disobedience.
In an interview with WND, Buchanan, the author of “Suicide of a Superpower: Will America Survive to 2025?” and other bestsellers, spoke on the controversy over the Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
Buchanan forcefully condemned defeatism among social conservatives and rejected retreat or even compromise. Instead, the one-time presidential contender and Reagan White House aide urged Christians to put the laws of God above the laws of man.
“This battle can be won, but it cannot be won if we do not stand our ground and fight against this moral onslaught from the left,” he said. “The hill to stand on and fight on is the God-given natural right and the constitutional principle that people of faith may choose not to associate with those whose actions are abhorrent and whose lifestyle is insulting and offensive to that faith.”
Buchanan dismissed arguments that “gay”-rights activists are simply asking for political freedom or the same rights as any other citizen.
“The LGBT militants are not asking to be left alone,” he said. “They are demanding that we accept the morality of homosexuality and same-sex marriages, and manifest that acceptance, under pain of law and sanctions, in our daily lives.”
Buchanan added: “As the Romans demanded of the Christians, the LGBT fanatics want us to burn incense to their gods. The answer is no. If it comes to civil disobedience, so be it.”
WND also reported a team of prominent Christian leaders worked on a statement to inform the public – including justices on the U.S. Supreme Court who soon will hear arguments on the issue – that they will engage in civil disobedience rather than follow a ruling that establishes homosexual marriage in the United States.
Among those leading the charge are James Dobson of Family Talk Radio, Rick Scarborough of Vision America Action, Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel and James Robison of Life Today, whose new publication called the Stream reported on a telephone conference call discussing the issue.
Stream Executive Editor Jay Richards told WND there were about 20 other Christian leaders on the call. He said members of Congress have expressed an interest in the plan.
“We’re taking a very adamant stand,” he said. “If the court declares same-sex marriage to be on the same par as a civil right, that’s a bridge too far. We won’t obey. We’ll go to jail.”
Dobson, who publicly warned Obama earlier he would not submit to mandatory payments for abortion – said Christians must stand together against the clearly unbiblical same-sex marriage.
“We will be attacked from every direction,” Dobson said in the report in the Stream, “and critics will do all they can to weaken and embarrass us, but so what?”
“Are we going to sit on our reputations and go to our graves without having played a role? This is Roe v. Wade all over again. I am standing shoulder to shoulder with all who will stand up for God’s Word concerning marriage. We don’t know all of the steps that must be taken, but God will reveal His will. To the extent that I am able to influence anybody, I will do it with passion,” Dobson said.
See WND’s “Big List of Christian Coercion” with dozens of cases in which Christians have been fined, threatened or penalized for recognizing the biblical definition of marriage. And sign a petition in support of ordinances that allow Christian business owners to live by their faith.