While the nation waits for the Supreme Court's decision in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case, another case demonstrates there are reasonable solutions that can protect dignity on both sides.
Last week, a federal judge said the state of North Carolina violated civil rights laws when it forced a magistrate to resign because of her beliefs about marriage.
"Gayle Myrick was a highly qualified and well-respected magistrate in North Carolina for many years, and she would issue warrants, set bail, and a very small portion of her work was performing civil marriage ceremonies," explains attorney Stephanie Barclay of Becket, the non-profit religious liberty law firm that represented Myrick. "When same-sex marriage became legal, she didn't want to stop any couple from getting married, but she also knew that her religious beliefs prevented her from performing same-sex wedding ceremonies."
Myrick's immediate supervisor proposed a solution: Shift her schedule by a couple hours so she would not be working when marriage ceremonies were performed.
"But the state rejected this solution and targeted Gayle because of her religious beliefs and forced her to resign, which meant she lost her retirement and the job that she loved," Barclay reports.
The state government has since acknowledged that it treated Myrick unfairly, and it entered a substantial settlement and gave her back the pay and retirement benefits that Baclay says were unjustly taken from her.
"This case demonstrates that there are reasonable solutions that can protect dignity on both sides," the attorney asserts. "And it's an important signal for other state governments that not only are these reasonable solutions beneficial for society, they're required by law, and if other states don't work to find ways to protect the faith and dignity of their religious employees, alongside providing services for LGBT individuals, then they could be subject to these sorts of significant settlements and have to pay, make whole their employees in the future as well."
Alliance Defending Freedom is the non-profit religious liberty law firm representing Masterpiece Cakeshop owner Jack Phillips at the Supreme Court. (See related story.)