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ACLU: Senate Committee To Hear Bill To Allow Magistrates To Opt Out of Marriage Duties

Release from ACLU-NC: 

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of North Carolina is urging lawmakers to reject a bill that would allow magistrates and other government officials to opt out of providing marriage services to the public for six-month periods based on “sincerely held religious” objections.

SB 2 is scheduled for a committee hearing on Tuesday, Feb. 24, at 10 a.m. in room 1124/1224 LB at the General Assembly in Raleigh.

“Religious freedom is one of our most valued liberties, but it should never be used as an excuse to deny government services to those who qualify, simply because of who they love,” said Sarah Preston, policy director for the ACLU of North Carolina. “This bill is clearly designed to deny gay and lesbian couples their legal right to marry, but it would also make it harder for all North Carolina couples, especially those living in smaller counties, to access their right to be married under the law. We urge lawmakers to reject this bill and ensure that government services in North Carolina remain open to all on equal terms.”

The ACLU-NC’s fact sheet on the bill is available at http://acluofnorthcarolina.org/files/legislative/SB_2_opposition_fact_sheet.pdf

In 1977, two Forsyth County magistrates denied marriage services to Thomas Roger Person and Carol Ann Figueroa, an interracial couple, based on religious objections. The couple successfully sued the magistrates in federal court.

North Carolina has recognized the freedom to marry for same-sex couples since October 2014, when two federal judges struck down the state’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples following lawsuits by the ACLU and others.

The ACLU of North Carolina is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to preserving and expanding the guarantees of individual liberty found in the United States and North Carolina Constitutions and related federal and state civil rights laws. With more than 12,000 members and supporters throughout the state and an office located in Raleigh, the organization achieves its mission through advocacy, public education, community outreach, and when necessary, litigation. Visit acluofnc.org for more information.