The state of North Carolina has agreed to pay a settlement of at least $325,000 to a magistrate who was forced to resign after she refused to perform same-sex marriages.
Gayle Myrick (above), the Kim Davis of the North Carolina court system, didn’t deny any specific couple their right to marry. But she did approach her supervisors and let them know that, because of her Christian faith, she wouldn’t be able to perform those ceremonies personally.
Myrick isn’t like a lot of the other “religious freedom” advocates in her position in that she doesn’t seem to hate gay people, and she says she doesn’t even want to deny them their right to marry. She says she just doesn’t want to be personally involved, and perhaps because of that, she has reached a compromise with the state.
The compromise, crazily enough, is that religious believers who work for the government and don’t want to perform same-sex ceremonies may be excused from them as long as it doesn’t delay or jeopardize the marriage.
When Myrick, who attends a Southern Baptist church, raised her discomfort with performing a same-sex ceremony, her supervisor suggested she could remove her from the duties of performing marriages altogether. However, a higher-level supervisor said her schedule could not be adjusted to excuse her from marriage duties.
“I didn’t want to stop anyone from getting married,” said Myrick, who is 68 and lives in Monroe, N.C. “I also knew my religious convictions would not allow me to perform those marriages personally.”
A judge recently ruled that the case needed to be examined further, while also stating that Myrick should have had the option to opt out of performing marriages that violated her religious doctrine. That ruling led to the settlement, which called for North Carolina to pay $210,000 in damages and $115,000 in attorneys’ fees.
The settlement was partly based on a new North Carolina law that allows magistrates (or lay judges) to opt out of performing same-sex marriages as long as other magistrates pick up the slack. This presents a contrast to the story of Kim Davis, who actively prevented other clerks in her office from issuing same-sex licenses.
Some religious-freedom observers and activists see the state law and Myrick’s case as a victory in the tension between LGBT rights and government workers’ religious rights. A same-sex couple seeking to wed wouldn’t know that a government official intends to discriminate against them, as the official would be opting out of all marriages, activists argue.
“Nobody’s entitled to the right to insult someone or deny someone to their face,” said Ira Lupu, a law professor emeritus at George Washington University who specializes in the First Amendment. “People have a right to be accommodated in the workplace so long as there’s [no] harm to the people being served.”
I’m not sure if this is the best idea, but I know it’s better than allowing clerks and/or magistrates to refuse same-sex couples their right to marry. If it works like it is supposed to, and there is absolutely no delay or damage caused to the couple, maybe that’s a fair compromise… but is it anything but damaging to a same-sex couple that a government official could refuse to marry them while offering the same service to a straight couple?
It’s also important to note that the case doesn’t account for unique circumstances. For instance, in a small town, what happens if all the magistrates simply “opt out” of providing same-sex marriages? That would delay the marriage… so whose “rights” take precedent? It could turn out to be more of the same LGBT discrimination we’ve seen for years. And that’s completely unacceptable.
(Screenshot via YouTube)