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North Carolina County Magistrates Legally Refuse to Perform Marriages

North Carolina County Magistrates Legally Refuse to Perform Marriages

Kim Davis supporters rally.

One North Carolina county has found itself in a sticky situation after all four magistrates opted to stop performing marriages.

One North Carolina county is turning to officials from neighboring counties after all four of its magistrates announced they would stop performing weddings for all couples -- gay or straight.

In North Carolina, magistrates can legally opt out of performing marriage ceremonies after the state legislature passed a "religious exemptions law" shortly before the Supreme Court ruling in favor of marriage equality.

After North Carolina's ban on same-sex marriage was struck down in court, legislators rushed to pass a law that gives magistrates and register of deeds employees "the right to recuse from performing all lawful marriages...based upon any sincerely held religious objection." After the magistrate declares they will not perform marriages for same-sex couples, they are barred from officiating weddings for straight couples, as well. The exemption lasts for six months and can be renewed.

But that means the McDowell County government officials cost the state extra money with their stance. Magistrates from nearby counties drive there to perform the marriages because state law also requires counties to offer marriage services at least 10 hours per week.

Hilary Hollifield, Chad Johnson, Thomas Atkinson, and Debra H Terrell are the magistrates who have opted out, according to the North Carolina court's website. In total, 32 magistrates in the state have recused themselves from performing marriages under the law.

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