ASHEVILLE, N.C. (BP) — The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday (June 28) in favor of a North Carolina religious liberty law protecting county magistrates. The law allows the public officials to recuse themselves from performing marriage ceremonies for or issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
The appeals court declared the three couples who filed suit didn’t have standing because the law hadn’t harmed them. The ruling, issued by a three-judge panel, mirrors a district court decision against the plaintiffs for the same reason.
Under the law, counties in which magistrates have filed recusals must make other officials available to perform their duties. The plaintiffs argued the state law penalized them because it required taxpayers to cover magistrates’ travel expenses.
The plaintiffs could ask for a full 4th Circuit review, hoping to get a different decision, or appeal directly to the U.S. Supreme Court.
State Sen. Phil Berger, who authored the legislation, cheered Wednesday’s ruling: “Once again, a federal court has rejected the idea that exercising one’s First Amendment religious freedoms somehow infringes on others’ rights.”