The Raleigh News & Observer reports:
A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit by three couples who challenged North Carolina’s law that allows magistrates to refuse to marry same-sex couples by citing religious beliefs. U.S. District Judge Max Cogburn ruled that the couples lacked legal standing as taxpayers to sue and lacked evidence showing they were harmed directly by the law that took effect in June 2015. The judge, though, did not rule out the potential for other challenges of the law by people who could show harm. Attorneys for the couples filed notice on Wednesday of their plans to appeal the Cogburn ruling that was entered Tuesday in Asheville.
NOTE: An earlier report by the AP has been criticized as mischaracterizing the ruling. See below.
The Associated Press reports:
A federal judge has upheld a North Carolina law that allows magistrates to refuse to marry same-sex couples by citing religious beliefs.
The judge in Asheville dismissed a lawsuit filed by three couples, two gay and one interracial. The judge ruled that the couples lacked legal standing as taxpayers to sue and lacked evidence showing they were harmed directly by the law taking effect in June 2015. Still, U.S. District Judge Max Cogburn wrote there is potential someone could suffer real harm because of the law.
The plaintiffs’ lawyers filed notice Wednesday that they’ll appeal the ruling to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. North Carolina is one of only two states with such religious-objection laws that are being enforced. About 5 percent of North Carolina’s magistrates have filed recusal notices.
In 2014, Judge Cogburn issued a limited ruling striking down North Carolina’s ban on same-sex marriage.
UPDATE: More news on this issue from Courthouse News Service:
The North Carolina Court of Appeals on Tuesday held that two former magistrates have no legal standing to sue state court administrators over their dismissals for refusing to perform same-sex marriages.
Gilbert Breedlove, of Swain County, N.C., and Thomas Holland, of Graham County, N.C., resigned the positions as magistrates after John Smith, who was then head of the state Administrative Office of the Courts, issued an Oct. 13, 2014, guidance to judicial employees that said magistrates who refused to perform same-sex marriages would be fired, regardless of their reasons.
Both former magistrates describe themselves as devout Christians, and sued the Administrative Office of the Courts in April 2015 seeking reappointment to their positions, back pay and benefits.
Wake County Superior Court Judge George Collins, Jr., dismissed their case, finding that Breedlove and Holland lacked standing because local judges have power to appoint, suspend or fire them — not the state officials who sent the memo.