The North Carolina state Senate on Wednesday passed a bill that would let government officials exempt themselves from performing marriages due to their religious beliefs.
After a federal judge struck down the state’s gay marriage ban last year, some of the magistrates that perform marriages threatened to quit if they had to marry same-sex couples.
The bill allows the magistrates to recuse themselves from performing marriages due to a “sincerely held religious objection.” The bill does not mention gay marriages in particular and bars the magistrates from performing any marriages for six months or until they reverse their objection.
Most Republicans voted in favor of the bill, but state Sen. Jeff Tarte (R) told the News-Observer that he decided not to vote for the bill after grappling with the issue for a while.
“This keeps me up at night like you would not believe,” Tarte said. “This is about trying to do the right thing.”
Republican Senate leader Phil Berger (pictured above) sponsored the bill and said that he supported the legislation because it lets the state enforce the law while still allowing officials to follow by their religious beliefs.
“While the courts have taken steps to provide special rights to some, we must not ignore the constitutionally protected rights of others,” he said in a statement, according to Reuters.