Free to Believe

Gilbert Breedlove

North Carolina Magistrate Judge: Bryson City, North Carolina

On October 20, 2014, Magistrate Judge Gilbert Breedlove resigned from his position so he would not be forced to perform court-created same-sex marriages. According to USA Today, Breedlove, 57, had served as a Swain County, North Carolina magistrate for nearly 24 years and was also an ordained minister.

North Carolina's democratically supported referendum defining marriage as the union between one man and one woman had been struck down by the courts on October 10, 2014. In the wake of this court decision, Breedlove indicated that he felt retirement to be his only option. "We were directed we had to perform the marriages, and that was just something I couldn't do because of my religious beliefs."

"I was Christian when I started," Breedlove continued. "Then, the law didn't require me to perform something that was against my religious belief. Now that law has changed its requirements."

USA Today noted that Breedlove, "also served as a deputy sheriff before becoming a magistrate, spent several years translating the Bible into the Choctaw Indian language. His wife was raised on a Cherokee Indian reservation."

On April 6, 2015, Breedlove and Graham County magistrate Thomas Holland filed a lawsuit. According to local news outlets, the lawsuit stated that "Defendants forced Plaintiffs to choose between taking an act that violates their sincerely held religious beliefs or being criminally prosecuted." The suit additionally stated that both men resigned under duress and that forced participation in same-sex marriages was in direct violation of their religious beliefs, and therefore unconstitutional.

Photo credit: Courtesy of Gilbert Breedlove/Special to the Citizen-Times