Gayle Myrick, an evangelical Christian and former magistrate who was forced out after she refused to perform civil marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples due to her religious beliefs, has been awarded $300,000 by the state of North Carolina in a settlement agreement.
The settlement amount includes $122,660 in back pay, according to her lawyers at Becket, a Washington-based nonprofit.
The settlement comes a year after an administrative law judge ruled that the state violated civil rights laws by forcing Myrick to resign as a Union County magistrate in October 2014, soon after gay marriage was legalized in North Carolina.
Myrick is now 68.
“This case is about protecting the dignity of everyone in our diverse society,” Becket counsel Stephanie Barclay told The Daily Signal. “Faith and sexual orientation are deeply important to the identity of many people, and these two things don’t have to be at odds with each other.”
“The state of North Carolina should not have discriminated against Gayle Myrick for her sincerely held religious beliefs about marriage,” Ryan T. Anderson, a senior research fellow at The Heritage Foundation, and Emilie Kao, a lawyer who directs Heritage’s DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society, were quoted as saying in a joint statement. “Accommodating her conscience took nothing away from same-sex couples’ ability to obtain marriage licenses.”
Myrick’s immediate supervisor proposed at the time that her shift could be rescheduled by a couple of hours so she wouldn’t be at work when other magistrates did marriage ceremonies. However, the state government rejected the proposal two weeks before her retirement benefits vested.
“I have always wanted to find a way to protect everyone’s dignity,” Myrick said at the time. “The solution in my case would allow any couple to get lawfully married without facing rejection or delay, and magistrates with religious beliefs like me could step aside and still keep our jobs.”
At least six North Carolina judges resigned from their benches because they did not want to go against their Christian faith and conduct wedding ceremonies for same-sex couples at the time.
“I believe that marriage was ordained by God to be between a man and a woman,” Myrick said at the time. “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.”
“It was something I had to do out of conscience,” magistrate Bill Stevenson from Gaston County said at the time. “I felt like to perform same-sex unions would be in violation of the Lord’s commands, so I couldn’t do that.”