Gay Marriage Ruling Forces Magistrate Out of His Job
WENTWORTH, N.C. - At least six North Carolina magistrates have given up their jobs rather than be forced to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies.
John Kallam, who worked as a magistrate in rural Rockingham county for over a decade, is one of them.
During that time he watched the growing momentum of gay marriage closely and wondered what it might mean for him.
"I told some of my co-workers, 'if it ever gets down to that, where I'm asked to perform same-sex marriage, I'm not going to be able to do it,'" Kallam told CBN News.
That moment happened last month when a federal judge struck down North Carolina's marriage amendment. The following work day, Kallam told his supervisor he was unable to perform a gay marriage ceremony because of his personal convictions.
He offered to work the midnight shift to avoid the issue. The next day the North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts in Raleigh issued a memo stating that no accommodation could be made for the religious beliefs of magistrates who oppose same-sex marriage.
Kallam remembers how he found out.
"I showed up at 4 o'clock ready for my shift," he recalled. "There was no discussion. It was just two judges re-iterating what the administrative courts had said. This is now the law. We're here to uphold the law. Therefore you will do it."
Kallam said he felt he had no choice.
"You know Genesis 2:24 is pretty clear about marriage being instituted by God and between a man and a woman, so I couldn't in good faith do that," he said.
Kallam said he relies on the Bible not only for this decision but for the future as well. He and his wife are raising two grandchildren and had counted on the income from his job.
"You know I'm an older person," Kallam told CBN News. "I'm not a younger person. I'm 66 years old and I know that trying to find a job when you're 66 years old is kind of hard, if not impossible. But nothing is impossible in God's eyes."
His struggle may be just the beginning as gay marriage grows and acceptance for religious liberty fades.
North Carolina Senate leader Phil Berger believes the state courts can accommodate workers like Kallam. He's working on legislation that would protect religious beliefs and lead the courts to change their policy.
"There's a reasonable way to deal with this," Berger told CBN News. "I think North Carolina got off on the wrong foot in terms of trying to deal with what was admittedly a very fast-moving situation where the federal courts stepped in and in essence overruled the will of better than 60 percent of the people."
For Kallam's pastor, the situation has provided a reality check.
"I tell our congregation that if they can tell a magistrate last week that you have to perform a ceremony, what's to prevent them from telling me next week I have to do it?" Pastor Steve Griffith, with Osborne Baptist Church, explained.
Kallam's stand is also bringing hope and encouragement to his community.
"Strangers, people I didn't know who've come up and said, 'Thank you for taking a position and we appreciate you and we're praying for you,'" he said.
His pastor said he's strengthened other Christians.
"I think it does something in the heart of a believer when they see a brother in Christ stand up, and they know it cost him his job," Griffith said.
For now, Kallam plans to accept the speaking opportunities he's receiving from churches around the state. His message is simple. He says "God's Word will never fail us and His Word is truth and we need to stand on that truth."