In 1879 in Reynolds vs. United States, a case brought in the name of religious freedom, the Supreme Court opined the following: “while (laws) cannot interfere with mere religious belief and opinions, they may with practices. Can a man excuse his practices to the contrary because of his religious belief? To permit this would be to make the professed doctrines of religious belief superior to the law of the land, and in effect to permit every citizen to become a law unto himself.”
In permitting magistrates and registers of deeds to recuse themselves from performing marriage or issuing licenses based on religious belief, the North Carolina legislature has officially sanctioned behavior that the Supreme Court expressly – and wisely – prohibited.
Religious objection to gay marriage is the right of the individual; for public officials to act on that belief in executing their responsibilities is discrimination, which is against the law.
If our job changes to require actions that conflict with our religious beliefs, we have two options: modify our belief or leave our job. The North Carolina legislature has now created a third that, even from the vantage point of the 19th century, is a giant leap backward.
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David R. Rubinow