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Oct 17, 2014

Equality NC Responds to Anti-LGBT Group's Misleading Memo to NC Registers of Deeds

RALEIGH, N.C. (October 17, 2014) -- Today, two anti-LGBT organizations sent an unsigned memo to all North Carolina registers of deeds offices. The memo suggests that Registers of Deeds and their employees could refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples if their personal beliefs conflict.

The misleading memo saying "registers of deeds are not forced to issue licenses contrary to their conscience," cites religious freedoms as a justification for not fulfilling a magistrate's oath of office.

Equality NC immediately responded to the misleading memo, saying its sources, the so-called NC Values Coalition's Tami Fitzgerald and the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) are simply wrong to suggest a state employee's personally-held beliefs would allow them to violate their job duties and the constitutional rights of others, calling the memo "dangerous."

"These fringe groups are proffering a dangerous argument that is meant to encourage state employees to violate a federal court order, their oaths of office, and the rights of LGBT North Carolinians," said Chris Sgro, executive director of Equality NC.

"This has nothing to do with personal religious beliefs. This is about doing a job. Good, hardworking North Carolinians know that every job has requirements. Registers of deeds are state employees and it is their job to issue licenses to same-sex couples and conduct same-sex marriages the same as they would for opposite-sex couples. This memo therefore contains intentionally misleading information that absolves them of this duty and encourages them to break the law," added Sgro.

"The judicial orders issued by two federal judges, Judges Osteen and Cogburn, couldn't be more clear. Republican appointee Judge Osteen's injunction specifically orders that the entire state of North Carolina, including "...all officers, agents, and employees..." are enjoined from enforcing Amendment One. All gay and lesbian couples seeking marriages in North Carolina should be treated by state officials with the same dignity and respect as the couples before them."

Amid this incident, it is important to understand that problems experienced by North Carolina's same-sex couples seeking the freedom to marry for the most part have been isolated. In the vast majority of the almost two-thirds of North Carolina counties that have issued well over 400 marriage licenses to same-sex couples since October 10th, pro-equality elected officials in all corners of our state have welcomed these couples with open arms and minds.

"In the end, we hope the first week of marriage equality in North Carolina will be remembered for how smoothly and joyfully these events took place, rather than any rare and swiftly corrected incidences of intolerance. "North Carolina is ready for marriage equality," said Sgro. "Recent polls show more North Carolinians support same-sex marriage than don't. It is a handful of extreme special interests groups like ADF and the N.C. Family Values Coalition who need to get with the memo on North Carolina's true pro-family values."

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