The state of North Carolina has agreed to pay a third of a million dollars to settle a lawsuit brought by a magistrate who was forced to resign because her supervisor insisted she conduct same-sex marriage ceremonies in violation of her Christian beliefs.
An federal judge ruled last year the state courts were “required by law” to accommodate Gayle Myrick’s beliefs, leading to a settlement in January in which the state will provide Myrick back pay, retirement benefits and attorneys fees.
It’s one of two recent victories in defense of the civil rights of citizens who have been forced to endorse same-sex “marriage” in spite of their religious objections.
WND reported Tuesday a California judge refused to let the state force a Christian baker to use her artistry to create cakes for same-sex “weddings.”
The outcome of the North Carolina case contrasts with the case of Kentucky country clerk Kim Davis, who was ordered to jail by federal judge David Bunning after she refused to issue marriage licenses to anyone because she would be required to issue them to same-sex couples following the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 2015.
In North Carolina, Myrick resigned after a federal judge imposed same-sex “marriage” on the state in advance of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in which the four dissenting justices described the decision as unconnected to the Constitution.
According to the non-profit group Becket, which defended Myrick, she was a “highly qualified and well-respected magistrate in North Carolina for many years who was forced to resign because of her religious beliefs.”
“When same-sex marriage became legal, she didn’t want to stop any couple from getting married, but she also knew that her religious beliefs prevented her from performing a same-sex wedding ceremony,” Becket said. “Since performing weddings was a small part of her work, Gayle’s immediate supervisor proposed a solution: shift Gayle’s schedule by a couple hours so she wasn’t working when marriage ceremonies were performed. However, the state government rejected this reasonable solution and forced Gayle to resign.”
Myrick said she has always “wanted to find a way to protect everyone’s dignity.”
“The solution in my case would allow any couple to get lawfully married without facing rejection or delay, and magistrates with religious beliefs like me could step aside and still keep our jobs,” she said.
Becket noted magistrates already routinely shifted their schedules for a variety of reasons, such as vacation, night classes and drug rehab.
“If Gayle had asked to shift her schedule for any other reason, she would have been allowed to keep her job. But because her request was motivated by her religious beliefs, she was forced to resign just two months before her retirement benefits vested,” Becket said.
A federal judge determined that was discrimination.
“North Carolina was ‘obligated to provide an accommodation to Magistrate Myrick,'” the ruling said.
Faced with a court loss, the state later acknowledged it treated Myrick unfairly and agreed to the settlement.
The state also approved a law making sure no magistrates would be targeted for their religious beliefs and no one would be denied a prompt marriage.
“Faith and sexual orientation are deeply important to the identity of many people, and this case shows that these two things don’t have to be at odds with each other,” said Stephanie Barclay, counsel at Becket.
“Our civil rights laws help us create a diverse society where people can live, work, and break bread together despite our differences.”
Doing ‘violence’ to free speech
In the California case resolved this week, Cathy Miller of Tastries Bakery was targeted because she refused to use her artistic talents to promote the “wedding” of two lesbians.
The state asked Superior Court Judge David Lampe to issue a preliminary injunction ordering Miller either to create wedding cakes for same-sex duos or be barred from serving anyone.
But Lampe recognized that the issue is not about discrimination against same-sex couples.
“The state is not petitioning the court to order defendants to sell a cake. The state asks this court to compel Miller to use her talents to design and create a cake she has not yet conceived with the knowledge that her work will be displayed in celebration of a marital union her religion forbids. For this court to force such compliance would do violence to the essentials of Free Speech guaranteed under the First Amendment,” he wrote.
The same issue is before the U.S. Supreme Court in a case brought by Colorado against Masterpiece Cakeshop baker Jack Phillips, who refused to make a wedding cake for two homosexuals at a time when same-sex marriage was illegal in the state.
The Supreme Court is expected to announce a verdict within the next few months.
Already, however, Justice Anthony Kennedy has stated in his opinion on the 2015 marriage ruling that religious believers who publicly object to same-sex marriage are protected by the First Amendment.
He said it “must be emphasized that religions, and those who adhere to religious doctrines, may continue to advocate with utmost, sincere conviction that, by divine precepts, same-sex marriage should not be condoned.”
“The First Amendment ensures that religious organizations and persons are given proper protection as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths,” Kennedy wrote.
Perhaps the most egregious actions were taken by the state of Colorado against Phillips, which ordered his reindoctrination.
The state Civil Rights Commission first punished him, then cleared three other bakers who also had refused to bake cakes on religious grounds. All three of those cases involved bakers refusing to provide pro-Christian messages.
In fact, the state commission’s antagonism to Christian beliefs became evident at the outset of the case, when one member, Diann Rice, publicly exhibited bias against Phillips during a hearing, comparing him to a Nazi.
“I would also like to reiterate what we said in the hearing or the last meeting,” Rice said during consideration of Phillips’ case. “Freedom of religion and religion has been used to justify all kinds of discrimination throughout history, whether it be slavery, whether it be the Holocaust, whether it be – I mean, we – we can list hundreds of situations where freedom of religion has been used to justify discrimination. And to me it is one of the most despicable pieces of rhetoric that people can use to – to use their religion to hurt others.”
Hear a recording of Rice’s statement: