North Carolina Legislators Override Governor's Veto on Bill Allowing Officials to Refuse Gay Marriages

| by Alexander Rubinstein
Gov. Pat McCrory.Gov. Pat McCrory.

Court officials in North Carolina can refuse to perform same-sex marriage responsibilities if they have a “sincerely held religious objection.” The North Carolina state House voted to override the governor’s veto on the bill.

Gov. Pat McCrory vetoed the bill two weeks ago. He said, “No public official who voluntarily swears to support and defend the Constitution and to discharge all duties of their office should be exempt from upholding that oath.”

The Republican-dominated state Senate overrode the veto 32 to 16, and the House voted similarly with a more than three-fifths majority on June 10.

Court officials who have religious objections to presiding over a same-sex marriage are required to stop performing marriage duties for all couples — heterosexual or homosexual — for at least six months. In their place, elected officials, chief district court judges or the county register of deeds would take over the responsibility.

Democratic leader Larry Hall said the Republican governor was right to veto, “because it would sanction state employees being released from their sworn duties to the citizens of the state of North Carolina.”

Proponents disagree. “Just because someone takes a job with the government does not mean they give up their First Amendment rights,” said Senate Leader Phil Berger during a debate.

Democratic Rep. Cecil Brockman told reporters after the vote that the law “doesn’t make any sense. We live in 2015.”

Sarah Preston, executive director of the North Carolina ACLU, said, “This is a sad day for North Carolina that history will not judge kindly.”

She said in a statement, “Just eight month after our state extended the freedom to marry to same-sex couples, extremist lawmakers have passed discrimination into law.” She described the move as a “shameful backlash against equality.”

Sen. Angela Bryant, a Democrat, said that religious exemptions put “local officials at risk to be challenged for discrimination.”

A federal court struck down North Carolina's ban on gay weddings in 2012, reports The Guardian. The bill was introduced after some district court judges resigned in protest of the court’s ruling.

McCory noted his departure from his state’s Republican party, saying: “For many North Carolinians, including myself, opinions on same-sex marriage come from sincerely held religious beliefs that marriage is between a man and a woman.” He added, “we are a nation and a state of laws.”

Gay rights groups and Democrats who were in opposition to the bill said that litigation challenging the law would likely come soon, according to ABC11.

Sources: The Guardian, ABC 11

Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons