Officials Ousted for Opposing Gay Marriage Lose Appeals

     (CN) – The North Carolina Court of Appeals on Tuesday held that two former magistrates have no legal standing to sue state court administrators over their dismissals for refusing to perform same-sex marriages.
     Gilbert Breedlove, of Swain County, N.C., and Thomas Holland, of Graham County, N.C., resigned the positions as magistrates after John Smith, who was then head of the state Administrative Office of the Courts, issued an Oct. 13, 2014, guidance to judicial employees that said magistrates who refused to perform same-sex marriages would be fired, regardless of their reasons.
     Both former magistrates describe themselves as devout Christians, and sued the Administrative Office of the Courts in April 2015 seeking reappointment to their positions, back pay and benefits.
     Wake County Superior Court Judge George Collins, Jr., dismissed their case, finding that Breedlove and Holland lacked standing because local judges have power to appoint, suspend or fire them — not the state officials who sent the memo.
     The court of appeals affirmed Collins’s ruling on the same grounds.
     “Because defendants lacked the actual authority to sanction, suspend, or remove plaintiffs, the allegations in plaintiffs’ complaint, when viewed as true and considered in the light most favorable to plaintiffs, fail to demonstrate an injury that defendants were capable of inflicting upon plaintiffs, and by extension fails to show that such an injury could be redressed,” wrote Judge Ann Marie Calabria for the three-judge panel.
     ” If defendants could not remove plaintiffs, then defendants could not have harmed plaintiffs by such a removal, and therefore plaintiffs lacked standing to bring an action for this purported harm,” she said.
     On appeal, Breedlove and Holland also argued Judge Collins erred in granting defendants’ motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim.
     “Because we have already held that the trial court did not err in dismissing plaintiffs’ complaint for lack of standing, we need not address this issue,” Judge Calabria wrote.

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