A federal court ruled in favor of a North Carolina magistrate who was fired over her religious beliefs about gay marriage.
Gayle Myrick served as a Union County magistrate in North Carolina for years. However, when the state legalized same-sex marriage, Myrick was forced to choose between her duty and her beliefs. She didn't want to stop anyone from legally getting married, but her religious convictions prevented her from performing a same-sex wedding ceremony.
Myrick's supervisor came up with a compromise that included simply shifting her schedule by a couple hours so she wasn't working when marriage ceremonies were performed. However, the state stepped in, rejected this solution, and forced Myrick to resign in 2014.
Myrick filed a discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and won her case. The judge ruled North Carolina violated Myrick's civil rights and ordered the state to pay a $300,000 legal settlement that includes her lost salary and retirement benefits.
"I have always wanted to find a way to protect everyone's dignity," Myrick said in a statement. "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."
Stephanie Barclay, counsel at Becket, the non-profit religious liberty law firm that represented Myrick, told CBN News this landmark ruling means states cannot pit the dignity of LGTBQ individuals against people's religious convictions.
"Now, states know that if the state does not find reasonable solutions, they may have to have settlements" Barclay said. "Employers cannot target employees because of their faith."
This ruling comes ahead of the Supreme Court decision in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case, in which a Colorado baker came under fire for refusing to bake a cake for a gay wedding.
While Barclay said the facts of the two cases may be different, they are both "related to this issue of finding dignity in all sides."
"Faith and sexual orientation are deeply important to the identity of many people, and this case shows that these two things don't have to be at odds with each other," said Stephanie Barclay, counsel at Becket, the non-profit religious liberty law firm that represented Gayle. "Our civil rights laws help us create a diverse society where people can live, work, and break bread together despite our differences."