Even though it is legal for same-sex couples to marry in the state of North Carolina, they could still be refused a marriage license. Same-sex couples attempted to challenge this law, in which North Carolina is one of the only states who carry it, but failed in Court on Tuesday.
The law allows judges to opt-out of performing ceremonies to same-sex couples based on religious beliefs. North Carolina and Utah are the only such states in the US who impose these laws. The magistrate's recusal is also kept secret; it is a part of their personnel file.
Once judges recuse themselves from performing these ceremonies they are prohibited from performing any such ceremonies at all including same-sex and heterosexual marriages for 6 months. This law also allows some court clerks to refuse to issue a marriage license based on their religious beliefs.
The couples who filed a lawsuit in Asheville argued that taxpayer's money is being used to transport judges from other areas to McDowell County due to all of the judges recusing themselves from performing same-sex ceremonies because of their religious beliefs.
U.S. District Judge Max Cogburn wrote the plaintiffs failed to prove their claims with evidence that linked specific funds and specific damage and harm done. He had also allowed the recusals to remain secret.
Cogburn wrote plaintiffs provided no evidence that harm occurred though it's possible. Elected officials, chief District Court Judge and county Register of Deeds, must make sure marriage transactions are carried out if no one else is available.
According to their lawyer an appeal will be submitted from Tuesday's ruling.
The law declares the magistrate's religious beliefs supersede their oath to the judicial office.
The law was supported by Republicans and passed in 2015. Supporters of the religious recusal say it protects religious freedom and allows accommodation based on their religious rights that oppose certain views.
"A law that allows a state official to opt out of performing some of the duties of the office for sincerely held religious beliefs, while keeping it a secret that the official opted out, is fraught with potential for harm that could be of constitutional magnitude," Cogburn wrote.
Cogburn was officially appointed by President Barack Obama and the first to intervene to formally oppose North Carolina's ban.
For now the Senate Bill 2 will remain intact as the battle ensues over religious rights and same-sex marriage rights.