Magistrates and Marriage: They’re Not Private Citizens

Win some: Florida Gov. Scott Signs Repeal of Gay-Adoption Ban, Despite Vocal Opposition. Lose some: North Carolina Okays Opt-Out for Officials Who Oppose Same-Sex Marriage.

Interestingly, two GOP governors tried to do the right thing (in North Carolina, the legislature overrode a veto by Gov. Pat McCrory).

The Cato Institute’s David Boaz shared this comment on his Facebook page:

Well, I’m sorry to say that the North Carolina House has NOT recognized its constitutional obligation to offer equal justice to all citizens. Instead it has joined the Senate in overriding the governor’s veto of a bill exempting magistrates (the only civil officers authorized to perform marriages) from performing same-sex marriages if they have a religious objection.

As I said previously, this seems clearly wrong. Private citizens — florists, photographers, caterers — should not be forced to participate in ceremonies that offend them. Marrying couples can find another florist or baker who wants their business. But the government represents all citizens. Officers of the court must serve all citizens. By the way, the mission statement of the NC Magistrates Association is “The mission of the Magistrate is to protect and preserve the rights and liberties of all of the people, as guaranteed by the Constitution and laws of the United States and North Carolina, by providing a fair, independent and accessible forum [for] the just, timely and economical resolution of their legal affairs.” Under the new law they will insert “except the gay ones” after “all of the people.”

I made a similar point in an April post:

There is a key difference between private, self-employed citizens who don’t want to provide creative services to same-sex weddings, and servants of the state.

While some of my friends on the left seem to think everyone is essentially (or should be) treated as a servant of the state, that’s actually not the American way, and shouldn’t be.

But, on the other hand, if government officials can’t perform their duty to treat all citizens equally, citing their own religious convictions, then they should step aside. Separation of church and state is also the American way.

10 Comments for “Magistrates and Marriage: They’re Not Private Citizens”

  1. posted by Houndentenor on

    The religious right has played their hand. They have tried to make it sound like they just want their own beliefs respected, but it’s clear that in all these cases what they want is a free reign to use their religion to rationalize their own bigotry. Just as clerks were not allowed to issue licenses to gay couples even though they wanted to, clerks in states where gay marriage is illegal have to issue them even if they’d rather not. We ALL do things in our jobs that we’d prefer not to do. We do them or we find another job. I’ve participated in some things I found morally repugnant. (Relaying on particular phone message made me sorry to belong to this species, much less work in the banking industry. But I relayed it accurately.) It’s only the religious that feel they can get away with this, and it’s especially troubling because the entire conversation implies that no one but the religious has any morals, ethics or convictions that come into violation with what they are required to do. Of course in the case of NC, this is the state that tried to ban all churches from performing gay marriages, even those that wanted to perform them. At some point the GOP is going to have to take their party back from the religious extremists. I hope they can manage that while there’s still anything left of our country.

    • posted by Mike in Houston on

      I am waiting for the first gay magistrate in NC to tell straight couples that they have to

      “Help me out here, because I’m just somewhat of a country boy — Go find someone else who will perform your ceremony! What’s wrong with that concept?” – NC Lt. Governor Dan Forest

  2. posted by Doug on

    When you open a business you agree to follow the law. The public accommodation laws have been on the books since the mid 1960’s. Now the whiny religious right doesn’t want to play by the rules everyone else does and wants to discriminate against only LGBT customers. Tough. If you don’t like the rules, don’t open a business. There is no god given right to be a business owner. Jesus did not shun anyone and would be shocked that any of his followers desired to do so.

    • posted by Lori Heine on

      This post is not about private businesses. It is about public servants, paid (by compulsion) by the taxpayers.

      It doesn’t help that so much of the left is as clueless as the social right about the distinction here.

      The social right and the “progressive” left are indeed two peas in a pod. They hate each other the way ugly teenage girls hate their mirrors. But they ought to just go ahead and form their own Aggression For Everything Party and be done with the charade that there’s any real difference between them.

      • posted by Mike in Houston on

        If Stephen would confine his post to that you would be correct… Unfortunately, Stephen’s posts always conflate baking a cake with participation and the unnecessary dig at public accommodation laws.

        I can’t wait to see how he squares flower arrangements with kicking a gay couple out of their rental apartment… because that’s next.

        • posted by Lori Heine on

          However he squares it, we can be sure it will amount to “blame the Left!”

          • posted by Mike in Houston on

            One of these days, I would love to go out for dinner/drinks/conversation with you…

    • posted by Josh on

      When you open a business you agree to follow the law. …f you don’t like the rules, don’t open a business.

      I love it when progressives claim that the law is the law and must be obeyed. How about the Jim Crow laws? Or the sodomy laws? Of course, Doug is totally disingenuous. Of course, Doug think laws he doesn’t like should be protested and even invoke civil disobedience because they violate what he sees as a core American value,

      Tomorrow, Doug will argue unjust laws should be disobeyed, and maybe he won’t even realize that he argued the opposite here. Whatever serves the narrative, baby.

  3. posted by Jorge on

    I’ll start worrying when this causes gays to be sent home without getting married.

    No, actually, I’ll start worrying the third time that happens.

  4. posted by Lori Heine on

    Mike, if you’re ever in the Valley of the Sun, I’ll definitely take you up on that!

Comments are closed.