Editorial: Law Will Legalize Discriminatory Practices Against Same-Sex Marriage
Senator Berger, leader of the NC Senate, has proposed a law that will allow government employees to legally withhold services from same-sex couples. The bill enables both magistrates and register of deeds employees to opt-out of official dealings concerning same-sex marriage solely based on religious grounds.
The discriminatory proposal is a clear violation of the First Amendment, and should be treated as such. Furthermore, the courts have ruled that same-sex marriage is permitted in North Carolina. In spite of this, Berger's bill shines a clear light on regressive politics of the majority party.
Phil Berger has better things to do. But the Senate president pro tem, the state’s most powerful lawmaker, continues to focus on suppressing same-sex marriage despite rulings in its constitutional favor by federal appellate courts.
Berger, Republican of Eden, has filed a bill to allow magistrates and register of deeds employees in North Carolina to opt out of any role in same-sex marriages if they object to such unions on personal religious grounds. This is bad law and little more than pandering to the right wing.
It also would quite likely fail a constitutional challenge, which it’s sure to face if it passes the General Assembly.
Public officials are sworn to do their duty, and they don’t get to pick and choose which of those duties to do. What if some magistrates chose not to perform marriages between people of different races because of their personal views? Would that be OK? Could police officers decline to investigate crimes if the victim were gay?
Berger sees no such complications in allowing office-holders to refuse to perform their functions under the law.
“This bill offers a reasonable solution to protect the First Amendment rights of magistrates and register of deeds employees while complying with the marriage law ordered by the courts – so they are not forced to abandon their religious beliefs to save their jobs,” he said.
Berger, a lawyer, ought to know better. In supposedly protecting the First Amendment rights of public employees, he is willing to demolish the other part of the First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” All are entitled to practice their religions, but government officials cannot impose their religious views on the exercise of the law.
Some magistrates who object to gay marriage have quit rather than perform such ceremonies. That’s the proper solution to their dilemma and should be the only one.