After an incident on Tuesday in which a North Carolina couple seeking a same-sex marriage was turned away by a magistrate, the state has handed down an edict to courts. The initial case elicited a widespread reaction, with anger and indignation on both sides, but the long-term results of this order may include resignations or lawsuits.

On Tuesday, at a courthouse in Pasquotank County, Magistrate Gary Littleton refused to perform a marriage ceremony for a couple seeking his services. He said that because both parties were men, to do so would violate his religious beliefs.

There arose an outcry on the internet, with many posting that they had respect for Littleton’s choice to stand for his religion and uphold his beliefs, while others said the magistrate should have upheld his job description and the U.S. Constitution instead. There were cries of ‘abomination’ and ‘bigot’ back and forth across the internet, and debates about whether the man deserved firing, prison, Hellfire, or a medal.

On Wednesday, though, the local district addressed the issue, saying, according to the Gaston Gazette, that the magistrate would not face any disciplinary action for refusing to marry the same-sex couple. The couple in question say they have no intention of filing a formal complaint.

However, according to WISTV, the incident has spurred the North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts into motion, leading them to issue a memo Wednesday afternoon.

Pamela Best, counsel for that agency,firmly warned all state magistrates in her letter that they have a duty to uphold the law, and that to deny a marriage to a couple with a valid marriage license would be a violation of oath of office. It would further, under the current ruling and law, violate the Constitution, the letter warns.

Further refusals to perform magistrate duties, including same-sex marriages, could result in dismissals, suspensions, or even misdemeanor charges.

[photo credit: laverrue]