Since gay marriage was legalized in North Carolina on Oct. 10, at least six North Carolina judges have resigned from their benches because they do not want to go against their Christian faith and conduct wedding ceremonies for same-sex couples.
While it was reported last week that Rockingham County magistrate John Kallam Jr. and Swain County magistrate Gilbert Breedlove resigned from their positions because of the legalization of gay marriage, media reports have surfaced indicating that at least four other magistrates have done the same.
All six magistrates, Kallam, Breedlove, Bill Stevenson (Gaston County), Tommy Holland (Graham County), Gayle Myrick (Union County) and Jeff Powell (Jackson County) say they are waiting on God to give them direction in starting the next phases of their lives.
Stevenson is the latest judge to have publicized that he has stepped down from his position citing religious conflicts with the newly passed North Carolina marriage law.
Although reports surfaced only just this week that Stevenson had resigned, he issued his resignation on Oct. 16, just six days after same-sex marriage was legalized in the state.
"It was something I had to do out of conscience," Stevenson told NBC's Charlotte affiliate. "I felt like to perform same-sex unions would be in violation of the Lord's commands, so I couldn't do that."
Although Stevenson has only been a magistrate for over a year and a half, he is not concerned that he will be losing his main source of income as North Carolina Magistrates get paid more than $50,000 a year, according to the Winston-Salem Journal.
"I hate to wax it so biblical but it says 'what good is it for a man to gain the whole world but lose his own soul,'" Stevenson said. "So, that's the stakes I put on this."
Fifty-eight-year-old Graham County Magistrate, Holland, who is also Baptist, said he knew he had to resign as soon as he got a memo from the state saying that magistrates would have to honor the new marriage law no matter what their beliefs on same-sex marriage were.
"When the federal judges ruled that gay marriage was legal and North Carolina honors that, and part of a magistrate's job is to perform marriage ceremonies, I knew I couldn't honor that law," Holland told The Christian Examiner. "It's against my belief. It's against what the Bible says … I was raised a Southern Baptist. God has always taken care of me."
Myric, 64, issued a similar notion that she could not go against her own convictions.
"I believe that marriage was ordained by God to be between a man and a woman," Myrick told The Christian Examiner. "For me to do what the state said I had to do, under penalty of law, I would have to go against my convictions, and I was not willing to do that. I want to honor what the Word says."
Powell, who is now the former Jackson County magistrate and is currently a pastor of Tuckasegee Wesleyan Church, confirmed with a few news sources that he too has stepped down because of the gay marriage issue but has declined to comment further.
While these magistrates are just six of the 670 county magistrates that serve in North Carolina, other Christian judges who haven't resigned have indicated that they will simply not conduct the same-sex marriages as required by law, which could lead to their dismissal.
As the Winston-Salem Journal reported, Republican state senator Phil Berger, along with 27 other Republicans, have requested the North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts to protect state officials who refuse to participate in gay marriages because of religious beliefs.
Berger also told the newspaper that he will draft a bill that will grant protections to state officials who refuse to either issue marriage licenses or conduct gay marriages, out of religious belief.
"Here in Rockingham County, forcing Magistrate Kallam to give up his religious liberties to save his job is just wrong," Berger said.
Gay marriage advocates disagree with Berger's position and claim that magistrates should be willing to uphold and interpret the full extent of the law.
"While we understand people have their own religious beliefs, we don't think this is about religious discrimination. It's really more so about the magistrates doing their job and following the law," said Rick McDermott, a board member of the state's gay marriage advocacy group, Equality NC.