Despite North Carolina's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, marriages are proceeding because federal courts have ruled such bans in other states are unconstitutional. In a few months, the U.S. Supreme court will resolve the matter.
But some North Carolina Republicans refuse to apply common sense and want to keep fighting for the ban in court. And now, thanks to a push from Phil Berger, the Eden Republican and president pro tem of the state Senate, more anti-gay marriage foolishness is afoot.
A Senate committee has approved a bill that would allow magistrates to refuse to perform marriages of same-sex couples if doing so violates their personal religious beliefs. The same refusal rights also would apply to registers of deeds, who handle paperwork for marriages.
Sworn public officials have to do their duty, and this not-so-clever bit of legislating is certain to be found unconstitutional. Magistrates and registers of deeds don't get to cop out of their jobs based on their personal beliefs.
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This is amateur hour at the General Assembly, and a petty action that could get expensive. The legislature already has spent nearly $100,000 to have outside lawyers appeal the federal rulings on same-sex marriage. State Attorney General Roy Cooper, a Democrat, wisely decided not to press on with appeals once the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the issue.
If the high court rules that laws banning gay marriage are unconstitutional, it follows that a silly maneuver like this one regarding magistrates will fall quickly in the courts as well.