News and Observer Editorial: Senate Leader Berger Ignoring The Law

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In an editorial, the News and Observer takes Senate leader Phil Berger to task for his continued insistence on ignoring the recent ruling invalidating gay marriage bans in North Carolina. Berger is attempting to pass a law that would allow magistrates to refuse to sign same sex licenses. From the News and Observer editorial,

As president pro tem of the state Senate and the legislature’s political leader, Phil Berger is North Carolina’s top lawmaker.

But in this regard the state has a serious problem. Its top lawmaker doesn’t know what laws are made of. Or at least that’s the pose Berger is assuming on the issue of same-sex marriage in order to curry favor with his conservative base.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit has ruled that bans on same-sex marriage violate the U.S. Constitution. That ruling applies to all states within the circuit, including North Carolina, which amended its constitution in 2012 to include such a prohibition. That means that public officials who refuse to marry same-sex couples because of their moral objections are breaking the law.

Berger, a Republican lawyer from Eden, thinks that magistrates who swear to support the Constitution of the United States can make an exception in the case of same-sex couples. He thinks they can refuse to perform such marriages because it offends their consciences.

Now Berger has taken the director of the Administrative Office of the Courts to task because the director reminded magistrates that they can’t refuse to follow the law. Judge John W. Smith, the AOC director, said magistrates have a duty to perform such marriages. Some magistrates who object on moral grounds have quit, which is the proper thing to do if they can’t in good conscience fulfill their duties.

Berger, however, thinks the objecting magistrates should be accommodated. He wrote to Smith saying his direction “lacks any sort of reasonable effort to constructively guide courthouse officials at a time when such leadership is needed most. ...To actively discourage such conciliation is inexplicable.”



  1. Vincenzo Bee's avatar
    Vincenzo Bee
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    If Berger can't support the 4th Circuit's ruling, and furthermore proposes an unconstitutional law, knowing it is such, the HE needs to resign, and let someone else run the NCGA. If only we could impeach or recall him. In case you didn't know, Phil, the laws of the US {Congress} and the Constitution are the "supreme law of the land," and last time I checked, North Carolina had re-joined the Union in 1867. I also know that YOU took an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. Did you have your fingers crossed???
  2. Rick's avatar
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    While I don't support the idea that a person's religion should allow them to ignore or invalidate secular law, I think the Supreme Court's ruling on Hobby Lobby fundamentally broke secular law. I think Berger's law is legal under the rulings. If hobby Lobby can invalidate policy requirements dictated by the ACA, then government officials can ignore their duties to any citizen their religion dictates is beneath them. You may say that Hobby Lobby was is not a government, but secular law was thrown out based wholly on a religious believe which means in the eyes of the Supreme Court secular law is subjugated by any religious belief. This destroys the Fourth Amendment, making it meaningless. Theoretically ANYTHING ANYONE does for a religious reason trumps ANY secular law.<br /> <br /> So if I start the First Church of the Bacon God, and that god tells me I must not pay any taxes of any kind, then all secular law on taxation is invalidated. This REOPENS the Amish case in the 1940's when they argued they could not pay taxes to the government that would then be used to kill. At the time, it was said that secular law applied to all equally and was applied to individuals and not their beliefs. So now, the Amish and Quakers should be able to reargue their case and win. This also means that individuals who don't want to associate with anyone because of religious requirements must be allowed to exercise those belief in spite of the damage to the public good. Folks this logic leads us directly to religious civil war.
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