Federal appeals court upholds North Carolina same-sex marriage recusal law

Federal appeals court upholds North Carolina same-sex marriage recusal law

The US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit [official website] on Wednesday upheld [opinion, PDF] North Carolina’s Senate Bill 2 [text, PDF], which allows magistrates to refuse to perform same-sex marriages if doing so would conflict with their religious beliefs. The court ruled that the plaintiffs, three couples, did not have standing to bring the case because they could not claim that the law hindered their marriages, and the plaintiffs claimed instead that the law affected them as taxpayers. The court wrote, “In light of the Supreme Court’s admonitions on the narrow scope of taxpayer standing, we affirm the judgment of the district court that plaintiffs lack standing to press this claim.” Phil Berger [official profile], the Republican state senator who introduced the bill, said [press release], “Once again, a federal court has rejected the idea that exercising one’s First Amendment religious freedoms somehow infringes on others’ rights—which was made clear when the plaintiffs couldn’t find even one North Carolinian who was unable to get married under this law.” The plaintiffs’ attorney said [Charlotte Observer report] that the plaintiffs have not ruled out the possibility of an appeal.

LGBT rights are still disputed nationally. Last week a federal court lifted [JURIST report] an injunction on a Mississippi law allowing individuals to refuse service to LGBT people. In May the US Supreme Court declined to hear [JURIST report] an appeal challenging California’s 2012 ban on “gay conversion” therapy. In April the US Department of Justice dropped [JURIST report] a federal lawsuit against the state of North Carolina over a bill requiring transgender people to use the public bathroom associated with their birth gender.