Debate continues over same-sex marriage magistrate recusal bill

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GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. — It’s been less than a month since Senate Bill 2 became law in North Carolina.

So far, 14 magistrates and 11 register of deeds employees across the state have opted out of issuing marriage licenses and performing marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples due to their sincere religious objections.

Four of those register of deeds employees are in Guilford County.

Now, members of the LGBT advocacy group EqualityNC hope to see the law overturned, especially since the Supreme Court recently ruled in favor of gay marriage.

“The decision makes it very clear that same-sex couples have to be treated equally to opposite-sex couples. Anything that tries to skirt around that, or tries to make it so the government doesn’t have to do that, is going to be unconstitutional,” said Ryan Butler, a spokesperson for EqualityNC.

EqualityNC is assessing legal options and planning legal next steps to challenge the law.

However, those who support the law see it differently.

Dr. Mark Creech, with the Christian Action League, says the recusal law protects people on both sides of the issue.

“There is a part of this legislation that passed that makes sure these ceremonies are performed. It just allows an accommodation for those who have a religious objection to performing the same-sex marriage. That’s all,” said Creech.

In Guilford County, 354 same-sex couples have gotten married since last October.

Since four employees have recused themselves, Register of Deeds Jeff Thigpen says he has hired two part-time staffers to keep up with the increased workload.

Whether people see that as a waste of tax dollars or a protection of civil liberties, it’s clear the debate over Senate Bill 2 isn’t over.

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