The N.C. Court of Appeals ruled on Tuesday that two former magistrates have no legal standing to sue state court administrators who informed magistrates in 2014 that they could lose their jobs if they refused to perform gay marriages.
The former magistrates, Gilbert Breedlove from Swain County and Thomas Holland of Graham County, resigned after John Smith, former head of the state Administrative Office of the Courts, issued his guidance memo. The two former magistrates, who described themselves as devout Christians, filed a lawsuit filed in April 2015 seeking to be reappointed as magistrates and to receive back pay and benefits for the time spent resigned from their posts.
The appeals court upheld a lower court ruling to dismiss their case. Both courts found that the plaintiffs lacked standing for their lawsuit because local judges have power to appoint, suspend or fire them – not the state officials who sent the memo.
Since the U.S. Supreme Court legalized gay marriage in the autumn of 2014, state legislators enacted a law allowing magistrates to avoid performing same-sex marriages based on religious beliefs. That law has been challenged in a separate lawsuit.