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Oct 15, 2014

Equality NC Responds to Allegations of Alamance Magistrates' Refusal to Carry Out Marriage Law

RALEIGH, N.C. (October 15, 2014) -- Equality NC, the state's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) organization, responded today to news that Alamance County magistrates are refusing to marry same-sex couples following Friday's ruling enjoining the state from enforcing a ban on the freedom to marry.

Equality released the following statement:

"Equality NC is extremely concerned about the situation for same-sex couples seeking civil ceremonies in Alamance County. While details of unlawful actions on the part of magistrates are still unclear, it appears from statements made in the media that certain magistrates who object to performing same-sex marriage ceremonies will not be required to do so, in violation of the law."

Equality NC added, "We are investigating these claims and will work diligently with local, state and federal officials to assure that all state employees, including public officials in North Carolina's 100 counties, are upholding the laws of our state."

The Burlington Times-News reported on Monday that at least one Alamance County magistrate told Register of Deeds Hugh Webster that he wouldn’t officiate same-sex marriage ceremonies. "Webster said “about half” of his employees stated they are uncomfortable filling out and accepting marriage licenses for same-sex couples, one of the official duties of employees at deeds offices throughout the state. Webster said he will step in and fill out marriage licenses instead of those employees, though he disagrees with same-sex marriage," reported the Times-News.

The Burlington paper also said Chief District Court Judge Jim Roberson, who oversees the magistrates in Alamance County, said he addressed the magistrates’ concerns Monday.

“As a team, we’re going to abide by the law,' Roberson told the Times-News. "Some of our magistrates have concerns based on their faiths and religious beliefs. I completely respect that. Other magistrates do not." He said magistrates who are comfortable officiating same-sex ceremonies will be made available to perform those ceremonies if those already working aren’t comfortable with it. Roberson told Times-News reporter Michael Abernethy "he wasn’t sure whether that meant some couples could be turned away from the office and asked to come back later."

On Tuesday, October 14, the North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts released a memo to Superior Court Judges, Chief District Court Judges, District Court Judges, Clerks of Superior Court and Magistrates that included instructions that no magistrate could refuse to marry same-sex couples. Read it here.

ABOUT EQUALITY NC: Equality NC is the statewide organization working to secure equal rights and justice for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender North Carolinians.

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