ASHEVILLE, N.C. (AP) — The Latest on a court challenge to North Carolina's religious objection law (all times local):
A federal judge seems inclined to let a legal challenge continue over North Carolina's law allowing magistrates to refuse to marry same-sex couples, but only if those suing prove they have the right to file the legal action.
At a hearing Monday in Asheville, lawyers for same-sex couples said magistrates must follow the law. They said that when taxpayer money is spent on judges who refuse a legal duty, they have the right to sue.
Lawyers for the state Attorney General's office countered that the plaintiffs must prove they suffered more direct harm. They said the law allows other magistrates not religiously opposed to gay marriage to perform the ceremonies.
U.S. District Judge Max Cogburn didn't rule immediately, but did indicate he likely won't let lawyers for Republican legislative leaders to be added to fight the lawsuit.
Roughly 5 percent of North Carolina's magistrates are refusing to marry same-sex couples for religious reasons and lawyers for the state say people suing in federal court have no standing to challenge these opt-outs as unconstitutional.
U.S. District Judge Max Cogburn scheduled a hearing for Monday in Asheville on a motion to dismiss their lawsuit altogether.
Separately, Republican legislative leaders and some magistrates also want to be added as defendants going forward, saying they don't trust Democratic Attorney General Roy Cooper to defend the state law.
Three couples — two lesbian and one heterosexual — say taxpayer dollars are being spent to implement the 2015 opt-out law that treats them as second-class citizens and favors one set of religious views over another.