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Appeals court rejects challenge to gay marriage-recusal law

Emily-Kate Hannapel, center, celebrates with her new wife Laura Stephenson, right, both 26, of Durham, after getting married at the Wake County Justice Center in Raleigh, N.C. after 8pm on Friday, October 10, 2014. They were one of the 51 licenses issued after a ruling by U.S. District Judge Max Cogburn which paved the way for the first gay marriages to take place.
Emily-Kate Hannapel, center, celebrates with her new wife Laura Stephenson, right, both 26, of Durham, after getting married at the Wake County Justice Center in Raleigh, N.C. after 8pm on Friday, October 10, 2014. They were one of the 51 licenses issued after a ruling by U.S. District Judge Max Cogburn which paved the way for the first gay marriages to take place. clowenst@newsobserver.com

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – A federal appeals court has rejected a challenge to a North Carolina law that allows magistrates to refuse to perform same-sex marriages.

The Richmond-based 4th Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ruling on Wednesday that three couples who sued to overturn the law lack standing to challenge the law’s use of taxpayer funds.

The 2015 law allows magistrates to recuse themselves from performing marriages because of religious beliefs. Those who do so are prevented from officiating at all marriages for at least six months.

The law was passed in 2015 in the Republican-controlled General Assembly despite a veto by former Republican Gov. Pat McCrory. Under the law, the state court system doesn’t have to reveal which magistrates have opted out of their responsibility to perform marriages.

The couples – two gay and one interracial – had argued that the state was improperly using their tax dollars to accommodate magistrates’ religious views.

However, the 4th Circuit found that the couples didn’t meet narrow criteria for challenging the law as taxpayers.

This is a developing story. Look for updates later today at www.heraldsun.com

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