The Latest: North Carolina senator defends marriage opt-out

AP News
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Posted: Dec 09, 2015 1:46 PM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — The latest on a federal lawsuit challenging North Carolina's law allowing magistrates to refuse to perform gay marriages based on their religious beliefs:

1:45 p.m.

The chief author of the North Carolina law letting magistrates opt out of performing gay marriages based on religious objections calls a legal challenge to the law another attempt by the political far left to force its beliefs on everyone else.

On Wednesday, Republican state Senate leader Phil Berger addressed the federal lawsuit filed by three North Carolina couples who say the law approved last June is constitution. Berger says everyone seeking a marriage license in North Carolina since the law was enacted has received one.

Attorney General Roy Cooper said Wednesday that he personally opposes the law but his office will perform its duties and defend the law on the state's behalf. Cooper is a Democrat running for governor next year.

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11:30 a.m.

The attorney representing the plaintiffs in a lawsuit challenging a North Carolina law that allows magistrates to refuse to perform gay marriages based on their religious beliefs says the measure violates the First Amendment.

Luke Largess said Wednesday that the law advances a religious point of view on gay marriage by using public money. He says that although people can have their opinions on gay marriage, the state cannot use taxpayer money for that view. He also says the state of North Carolina cannot finance religious efforts to push back against gay marriage.

Largess and backers of the lawsuit appeared at a news conference at the Mecklenburg County Government Center. The plaintiffs weren't present.

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9:45 a.m.

Three couples are challenging North Carolina's law giving magistrates the option not to perform gay marriages based on religious objections.

The couples' lawsuit, filed Wednesday in federal court, says the law approved six months ago violates the U.S. Constitution by promoting religious beliefs over the equality of all North Carolina citizens, especially gays and lesbians. The litigation says magistrates can't be permitted to disavow their oath to carry out laws.

The Republican-led General Assembly passed the law over the veto of Gov. Pat McCrory. The law says magistrates and some court officials can recuse themselves if they have a "sincerely held religious objection." The recusal applies to all marriages for at least six months.

Civil gay marriages were authorized in North Carolina in October 2014.