ELIZABETH CITY, N.C. (WAVY) – Pasquotank County Magistrate Gary Littleton declined to marry a same-sex couple Monday, according to Chief District Court Judge Christopher Bean. Same-sex marriage became legal in North Carolina after a judge struck down the state’s ban on Friday.
“My understanding is that a couple came and asked to be married and he refused to marry them based upon his, I guess, religious or moral principles,” Bean said. ” … I suppose that it can be construed that he broke the law because that is a duty that the magistrate has, to perform marriages. I think, though, you have to temper that a little bit with the confusion and the quickness of all of this.”
Bean said the North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts sent a preliminary memo to the magistrates late Monday saying, “magistrates should begin immediately conducting marriages of all couples presenting a marriage license.”
“I believe the final memo will say, without any question, that that is the duty of the magistrate,” Bean said.
When asked if the magistrate would know that he would not be able to deny a same-sex marriage based on personal beliefs, even without the memo, Bean replied, “You would think that.”
Bean said he planned to meet with all of the magistrates in Pasquotank County on Tuesday about the issue.
WAVY.com approached Littleton ahead of that meeting, but he declined to talk.
Bean said Littleton could possibly be removed from his position if someone files a formal complaint and a judge makes that decision. WAVY.com has left a message with the District Attorney’s Office to determine if Littleton will face any criminal charges.
Another magistrate, Leonardo Custis, said he later married the two men who were first turned away on Tuesday morning.
“They cried, the couple and the witnesses, for the most part, so, I think they were happy that they were finally able to be married,” Custis said.
WAVY.com was unable to reach the couple for comment.