Lawsuit filed against bill that allows magistrates to opt out of performing marriages

— A federal lawsuit was filed Wednesday morning challenging Senate Bill 2, legislation passed in June that allows magistrates and county register of deeds employees to opt out of performing marriages for religious reasons.

The six plaintiffs in Ansley v. North Carolina are represented by Charlotte-based Tin Fulton Walker & Owen, and they are challenging the law under the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment and the Equal Protection and Due Process clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment, according to a news release from Equality NC.

Senate Bill 2 became law June 11 after the North Carolina General Assembly voted to override a veto by Gov. Pat McCrory.

The legislation is intended to allow magistrates and register of deeds office staffers who object to same-sex marriage to refuse to perform any marriages. The workers don’t have to opt out in advance – he or she can refuse to serve a couple at the time they go to obtain a marriage license or go before the bench for a civil wedding – and the worker opting out would then be barred from performing all marriages for at least six months.

Supporters say it protects the religious rights of magistrates and county employees. But critics say it allows public servants to decide which of their job duties to perform and for which taxpayers to perform them.

,A federal lawsuit was filed Wednesday morning challenging Senate Bill 2, legislation passed in June that allows magistrates and county register of deeds employees to opt out of performing marriages for religious reasons.

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