A Swain County judge resigned Monday so he would not have to perform same-sex marriages.
Magistrate Judge Gilbert Breedlove, 57, who also is an ordained minister, has been a magistrate for nearly 24 years.
“It was my only option,” Breedlove said. “We were directed we had to perform the marriages, and that was just something I couldn’t do because of my religious beliefs.”
North Carolina’s same-sex marriage ban was struck down Oct. 10. The judgment followed a Supreme Court announcement that it would not hear the case of a 4th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruling in July that struck down Virginia’s gay marriage ban. The 4th Circuit has jurisdiction over North Carolina.
“I was Christian when I started,” Breedlove said. “Then, the law didn’t require me to perform something that was against my religious belief. Now that law has changed its requirements.”
Reports have come from across North Carolina of magistrates stepping down because of their personal objections to same-sex marriage, but it’s important to remember that more than 600 licenses have been issued in more than 60 counties, said Executive Director Chris Sgro of Equality North Carolina, a statewide lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender advocacy organization.
In the broader picture, things are going smoothly, he said.
“Certainly, our hope is not that anybody feels like they need to resign from their position,” Sgro said.”Our hope is that people across North Carolina will support same-sex marriage and do their jobs and conduct same-sex marriages the same as they would for opposite-sex couples.”
Bryson City, tucked between the Cherokee Indian reservation and national forest land in western North Carolina about 65 miles from Asheville, is a conservative, primarily Christian community, said Breedlove, who mentioned that his friends and family are supportive of his decision.
Although employed as a part-time pastor at his church, Breedlove’s main source of income came from his position as a magistrate, he said. But the former staff sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps is not worried about the pay cut.
“That’s one of the things about being a Christian,” said Breedlove, who would not identify his church by name, saying he didn’t want it to get negative attention in response to his personal decision. “You are able to serve the Lord, and the Lord will provide.”
Breedlove, who also served as a deputy sheriff before becoming a magistrate, spent several years translating the Bible into the Choctaw Indian language. His wife was raised on a Cherokee Indian reservation.
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SOURCE: USA Today / Asheville (N.C.) Citizen Times – Beth Walton