ASHEVILLE, N.C. — Plaintiffs challenging Senate Bill 2 (SB2), an anti-LGBTQ law in North Carolina, have filed an appeal brief to the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. In September 2016, Judge Max Cogburn dismissed the lawsuit on issues related to standing, a ruling now being appealed to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals.
“Senate Bill 2 expressly declares that magistrates’ religious beliefs are superior to their oath of judicial office to uphold and support the federal constitution. And the law spends public money to advance those religious beliefs. That is a straightforward violation of the First Amendment,” said Luke Largess, a partner at Tin Fulton Walker & Owen and lead counsel in Ansley v. Warren. “The Court ruled that we were not challenging Senate Bill 2, but only the incidental spending by the Administrative Office of the Courts. That is clearly not the case.”
SB2 was passed as part of a wave of so-called “religious freedom bills” that originated in direct response to marriage for same-sex couples becoming legalized. The law allows magistrates to exempt themselves from performing marriage ceremonies and Register of Deeds employees to exempt themselves from issuing marriage licenses to couples, on the basis of their religious beliefs.
At least 32 magistrates across the state have thus far exempted themselves and Register of Deeds employees in 5 counties have done so, according to September 2015 data reported by the Administrative Office of the Courts and N.C. Association of Registers of Deeds.
SB2 sends a clear message to gays and lesbians that they are not full citizens, and denounces the federal courts for finding a fundamental right to marry under the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the U.S. Constitution.
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