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Court official defends directive to NC magistrates

RALEIGH — The chief administrator of North Carolina’s courts says magistrates are duty-bound to marry gay couples and says he finds no federal law or rulings that would exempt them based on religious beliefs opposing same-sex marriage.

Administrative Office of the Courts Director John W. Smith wrote this week in response to a recent letter from Senate leader Phil Berger and other Senate Republicans. They wanted him to revise a memo ordering magistrates to perform civil weddings for gay couples or face losing their jobs. Several magistrates have quit rather than perform a same-sex marriage.

Smith told Berger he respects magistrates who hold religious beliefs that are in conflict with their duties but says other magistrates also with sincere beliefs distinguish between a civil ceremony and marriage through a religious institution.

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