Updated Thursday, 11:30 p.m.
WENTWORTH — A Rockingham County magistrate submitted his resignation Thursday, saying he couldn’t marry same-sex couples because it violates his religious beliefs.
Magistrate John Kallam Jr. sent a letter to Chief District Judge Fred Wilkins and said he couldn’t fulfill his oath of office after same-sex marriage became legal in North Carolina. His resignation is effective Oct. 31.
“When I took my oath of office, I understood I would be required to perform weddings and have done so throughout my tenure,” Kallam said in an emailed resignation letter. “I did not, however, take that oath with any understanding that I would be required to marry same sex couples. It is my personal belief and a position of my Christian faith that doing so would desecrate a holy institution established by God himself.”
Kallam could not be reached for comment Thursday night.
Wilkins confirmed Kallam’s resignation.
“He’s a good honorable man and a good man who stuck by his convictions,” Wilkins said.
However, had Kallam refused to marry a same-sex couple, Wilkins said he would have followed protocol and suspended Kallam.
The county’s magistrates, including Kallam, met with Wilkins and Chief Superior Court Judge Ed Wilson Wednesday to discuss a memo from the N.C. Administrative Office of the Courts that said magistrates had to marry same-sex couples or face suspension and the possibility of being fired.
Wilkins said Rockingham County magistrates have performed two same-sex marriages since a federal judge’s decision on Oct. 10 that legalized same-sex marriages in North Carolina. Magistrate Shandolyn Martin presided over the first same-sex marriage in the county for Reidsville couple Ann-Marie Jarvis and Christy Michelle Finney.
Rockingham is not the first county where a magistrate has refused to marry same-sex couples.
A magistrate in Pasquotank County said Monday that he would not marry same-sex couples, saying it goes against his religious beliefs. And in Alamance County, some magistrates have refused to perform the ceremonies but haven’t resigned.
Equality NC, a nonprofit group that supports lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights, is considering legal options in response to the refusals.
“This is not an issue of people’s rights to have religious beliefs, but people try to spin it that way,” said Chris Sgro, the executive director of Equality NC. “This is their job, and it’s a job requirement.”
Bill Duke, the pastor of First Baptist Church in Reidsville, said this will become a “messy” issue in the coming days, and he is sure ministers also will need to start making hard decisions.
His church doesn’t have a policy on same-sex marriages, but he believes the majority of his congregation would say they believe a marriage is between a man and a woman, as he does.
“I personally would not want to do something that violates my religious beliefs, and then you have to decide, what’s a religious issue, what’s a social issue and what your personal belief is,” Duke said.
The American Civil Liberties Union sides with Equality NC.
“As Governor McCrory and other officials have made clear, the highest responsibility of state actors is to uphold the United States Constitution,” Chris Brooks, the organization’s legal director for North Carolina, said in a statement. “Federal courts have agreed that the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection under the law for all citizens includes the right of gay and lesbian citizens to marry the person they love. The law is clear, and all state officials are bound to respect it.”
Duke said he doesn’t know the magistrate or the details about what happened.
What he does know is he wouldn’t want a mayor telling him what to preach.
“You have to respect someone who sticks to his beliefs,” Duke said. “Maybe he should be applauded for standing by his convictions.”
More than 400 marriage licenses for same-sex couples have been issued in 60 counties, according to Sgro. And marriages have been taking place since last week’s ruling.
“This isn’t a problem everywhere,” Sgro said. “These are a few isolated instances.”
Posted Thursdat, at 3:55 p.m.
WENTWORTH—A Rockingham County magistrate submitted his resignation Thursday because he said he didn’t want to violate his oath of office; but marrying a same-sex couple violates his religious beliefs.
Magistrate John Kallam Jr. sent a letter to Rockingham County Chief District Court Judge Fred Wilkins and said he couldn’t fulfill his oath of office after same-sex marriages were legalized in North Carolina.
“When I took my oath of office, I understood I would be required to perform weddings and have done so throughout my tenure,” Kallam said in his resignation letter. “I did not however take that oath with any understanding that I would be required to marry same sex couples. It is my personal belief and a position of my Christian faith that doing so would desecrate a holy institution established by God himself.”
Kallam said he couldn’t fulfill his oath of office in good faith.
Wilkins confirmed his resignation and said, “He’s a good honorable man and a good man who stuck by his convictions.
Wilkins added had Kallam refused to marry a same-sex couple Wilkins would have fulfilled his oath of office and suspended Kallam.
Kallam’s resignation takes effect Oct. 31.