A former North Carolina magistrate has won a $300,000 legal settlement from the state after claiming she was forced to resign because her religious beliefs prevented her from marrying gay couples.
Union County magistrate Gayle Myrick resigned in 2014 after federal courts ruled that North Carolina’s ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional. Myrick initially asked if she could be allowed to stay on without having to give marriage licenses to gay couples, but a judge told her state guidelines didn’t allow for that.
She resigned shortly thereafter, one of at least a half-dozen clerks who did so rather than follow the law.
Last year, a judge working with the EEOC determine Union County officials should have accommodated Myrick’s religious beliefs as required under federal employment law. He ruled that her resignation was not truly voluntary, as refusing to marry gay couples would have led to her being terminated.
Myrick says all she wanted was a schedule change so she wouldn’t have to be the one to perform same-sex nuptials. “I have always wanted to find a way to protect everyone’s dignity,” she said in a statement Wednesday.
A law enacted in 2015 allows magistrates to decline to perform same-sex marriages by citing religious beliefs. Magistrate requesting to do so must stop performing any marriages for a period of six months.
The settlement, finalized in late January, includes about $210,000 in lost pay and retirement benefits, in addition to legal fees.