RALEIGH, N.C. (ChurchMilitant.com) - A Christian judge in North Carolina reached a $300,000 settlement with the state in a lawsuit for her conscience rights.
The settlement took place in November 2017 but was not public knowledge until this Wednesday.
When gay marriage was legalized in North Carolina in 2014, Union County magistrate Gayle Myrick prepared a resignation letter but met with her supervisors to ask them to accommodate her religious beliefs. (This was about a year before the Supreme Court approved of same-sex marriage for the whole nation in 2015's Obergefell v. Hodges.)
The state government would not allow accommodations, however, Myrick was pressured into resigning in October 2014, just weeks before her retirement benefits began.
The $300,000 settlement covered Myrick's attorney fees, lost pay and retirement benefits.
"When same-sex marriage became legal," Myrick said in an online video, "I knew because of my religious convictions I would not be able to perform the ceremonies."
She wanted to act on her sincerely held religious beliefs in a way that would not inconvenience the state, nor homosexual couples. She said she and her supervisor planned to "change my schedule so that I did not do any wedding ceremonies at all."
But this plan between Myrick and her immediate supervisor was shot down by higher authorities. Legal counsel Stephanie Barclay said, "Despite her immediate supervisor's solution and support from her coworkers, a higher-level supervisor said that because Gayle's religious beliefs were motivating her request to shift hours, that request was denied."
What's interesting is that if Gayle had made her scheduling request for family reasons or health issues, drug rehab or even for no reason at all, the government said in court that her request almost certainly would have been granted. But because the reason for her scheduling the desperate request was because of her religious beliefs, she was forced to choose between the job that she loves and her faith.
In 2015, North Carolina passed a law allowing magistrates like Myrick to refrain from officiating civil marriages entirely, in accord with their religious beliefs. If that law had been in place earlier, Myrick would not have resigned.
A federal judge ruled in March 2017 that the state of North Carolina was obliged to make recompense to Myrick. The newly-disclosed settlement several months later was a consequence of that ruling.
The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty represented Myrick in the case. It is a non-profit devoted to protecting religious freedom in the United States.
Becket also represents the Little Sisters of the Poor in their legal battle against the HHS contraceptive mandate.
The non-profit is named after St. Thomas Becket, a 12th century, English bishop who was murdered for asserting the rights of the Church.
Though named after a Catholic saint, the Becket Fund is known to represent people of various religions in the courtroom.