Court Orders North Carolina to Pay $300,000 for Forcing Christian Magistrate to Resign
A North Carolina magistrate was wrongly forced from her position due to her strongly held Christian beliefs, a federal judge recently ruled.
On Wednesday, the attorneys representing Gayle Myrick, a magistrate who resigned because she wouldn’t perform marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples, made public that their client won $300,000 in a settlement agreement.
In 2017, Judge Michael Devine ruled that the state of North Carolina violated Myrick’s civil liberties when it forced her to step down from her position as a Union County magistrate due to her faith. Devine noted that the state “failed to provide an accommodation … and failed to provide sufficient evidence that granting accommodation would be an undue burden.”
“I have always wanted to find a way to protect everyone’s dignity,” she said in a statement. “The solution in my case would allow any couple to get lawfully married without facing rejection or delay, and magistrates with religious beliefs like me could step aside and still keep our jobs.”
A video detailing the specifics of Myrick’s case was produced by Becket, a nonprofit, public interest firm that defended Myrick in her case.
The Washington Free Beacon reported that Devine found the environment inhospitable to Myrick, prompting her to involuntarily resign. “Magistrate Myrick had a good work record and no reason to resign, ‘but for’ the change in the law that created her religious conflict and lack of any alternative to participating in a same-sex marriage as part of her duties.” Devine ruled.
“I find that Magistrate Myrick’s resignation was involuntary and constitutes constructive discharge,” the ruling adds. “No accommodation was considered as an option by North Carolina.” And as noted by The Daily Signal, federal law states that North Carolina was “obligated to provide an accommodation” to Myrick.
The state of North Carolina was ordered to provide Myrick with $122,660 in back pay, $173,000 in compensation, $115,000 for her attorney fees and $37,000 in retirement contributions. Myrick, a devout Christian, was pleased with the verdict.
According to Becket, Myrick’s case is a clear example of a state infringing upon an individual’s religious liberties. While a magistrate, the now 68-year-old Myrick would set bail, issue warrants and perform civil marriage ceremonies.
Before the Supreme Court changed the definition of marriage to include civil unions between same-sex couples in 2015, Myrick, who identifies as an evangelical Christian, decided that she would not perform marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples due to her religious beliefs. However, she believed that people should be allowed to marry who they want regardless of gender, according to Becket.
Her supervisor reportedly proposed the idea of a schedule change so that Myrick wouldn’t have to work when other magistrates performed the ceremonies.
Unfortunately for Myrick, the state rejected the proposal and forced her to resign two weeks before she was set to secure her retirement benefits. Stephanie Barclay, an attorney for Becket, provided a statement on the case.
“Faith and sexual orientation are deeply important to the identity of many people, and this case shows that these two things don’t have to be at odds with each other,” Barclay stated. “Our civil rights laws help us create a diverse society where people can live, work, and break bread together despite our differences.”