GILBERT BREEDLOVE and THOMAS HOLLAND v. MARION R. WARREN in his official capacity as Director of the N.C. Administrative Office of the Courts and the NORTH CAROLINA ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICE OF THE COURTS.
Trial Court Order of Dismissal (Sept. 19, 2015)
Plaintiffs’ Notice of Appeal (Oct. 12, 2015)
Plaintiffs’ Transcript Documentation (Oct. 26, 2015)
Record on Appeal (Dec. 22, 2015)
Order Allowing Appellants’ Motion to Amend the Record On Appeal (Jan. 15, 2016)
Plaintiffs’ Petition for Expedited Discretionary Review (Jan. 6, 2016)
Defendants’ Response to Petition for Expedited Review (Jan. 19, 2016)
Appeal Information Statement (Jan. 26, 2016)
Plaintiffs-Appellants’ Brief (Jan. 27, 2016)
Defendants-Appellees’ Brief (March 21, 2016)
Plaintiffs-Appellants’ Reply Brief (April 4, 2016)
The Civitas Institute Center for Law and Freedom (CLF) has filed a notice of appeal in Breedlove v. AOC. The question presented: can the North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) be held responsible for violating the constitutional rights of magistrates who are trying to exercise their religious freedoms?
Following federal rulings finding state bans on same-sex marriage unconstitutional, the AOC sent out directives to North Carolina magistrates and other court officials informing them that a magistrate could not refuse to participate in a same-sex marriage for any reason, even if doing so violated a magistrate’s sincerely held religious beliefs. The directives further stated that if a magistrate refused to perform a same-sex marriage, he or she could face discipline, removal from office, and even criminal prosecution.
As a result of these directives, and months before the passage of a state law allowing judicial staff to opt out of performing same-sex marriages, Gilbert Breedlove and Thomas Holland, magistrates in Swain and Graham Counties respectively, resigned.
CLF Lead Counsel Elliot Engstrom joins attorney Ellis Boyle, who has been prosecuting the plaintiffs’ case since the initial filing in April 2015.
Breedlove differs substantially from the recent situation in Kentucky involving Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis. There, a government official refused to issue same-sex marriage licenses due to her religious beliefs. The Breedlove plaintiffs were not trying to restrict any person’s lawful access to marriage licenses or ceremonies. They simply sought a reasonable accommodation to have some other statutorily-authorized officiant participate in all marriage ceremonies because they could not participate in a same-sex ceremony for religious reasons. The AOC refused to offer such an accommodation and instead told the two men that failure to obey the directives could result in criminal prosecution.