Pasquotank Co., NC - A same-sex couple in Elizabeth City was finally able to tie the knot Tuesday after a magistrate refused to marry them the day before. Now that magistrate could lose his job.
Pasquotank County Magistrate Gary Littleton refused to say one word about his decision to NewsChannel 3 on Tuesday. However, his boss, Chief District Court Judge Christopher Bean says it was because it went against his moral and religious beliefs.
Judge Bean oversees and supervises the magistrates in seven counties in North Carolina. He says technically, Littleton broke the law.
"I suppose that it can be construed that he had broken the law because that is a duty that the magistrate has is to perform marriages," Judge Bean said.
According to a memo sent from North Carolina's Administrative Office of the Court sent to magistrates, their duty is to "immediately begin conducting all marriages," whether the couple is gay or not.
But Judge Bean says that memo wasn't sent out until after 5 p.m. Monday and says there was a lot of confusion as to what these magistrates could or could not do when performing same-sex marriage ceremonies, even though it became legal late Friday afternoon.
"Everything happened so fast," Judge Bean said. "You've got to remember magistrates are not lawyers, they are just citizens who have been appointed. They don't necessarily know how to interpret the law."
NewsChannel 3 asked if Judge Bean really believed the magistrate didn't understand his duties. He said "I don't know, he did make the statement that he could not do that because of moral ground, so that would make me think that he had a question in his mind if he was properly performing his duties or not."
According to North Carolina law, this magistrate could be suspended or removed from office if the couple decides to file a formal complaint against him.