Judge Tosses Challenge |to N.C. Gay Marriage Law

     (CN) – A federal judge on Wednesday dismissed a challenge to a North Carolina law that allows magistrates with religious objections to refuse to marry same-sex couples.
     U.S. District Judge Max Cogburn ruled the three couples who brought the case lacked legal standing to pursue the case and failed to present evidence they’d been directly harmed by the law, which went into effect in June 2015.
     North Carolina is one of only two states that currently enforces a religious recusal law related to same-sex marriages. Utah is the other.
     Under North Carolina’s law, magistrate that file recusal notices cannot officiate at any marriage for six months, regardless of whether the couple of heterosexual or gay.
     The law also allows court clerks to decline to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, if that refusal is based on a “sincerely held religious objection.”
     In a complaint filed in March, the plaintiffs argued they had standing to challenge the law because taxpayer money was being spent to cover the expenses of magistrates who traveled to McDowell County, N.C. to perform gay marriages because all the magistrates living in the county had recused themselves.
     But in his 38-page ruling. Judge Cogburn said the plaintiffs claims were “merely generalized grievances with a state law with which they disagree” and therefore they had no standing to bring their suit.
     Cogburn wrote that it’s possible someone could suffer real harm because of the law, but he said the plaintiffs provided no evidence that has actually happened.
     The law states that a chief District Court judge or county Register of Deeds — both elected officials — must ensure marriage transactions are carried out if no one else is available.
     On Wednesday, attorneys for the couples filed notice that they are appealing the ruling to the Fourth Circuit. The newly assigned appellate case number is 16-2082.

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