N.C. Lawmakers Overcome Guv’s Veto to Pass ‘Religious Freedom’ Bill

June 11, 2015 12:57 p.m.

Legislation blocked by the North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R) allowing public authorities to opt-out of officiating same-sex marriages will become law, after the North Carolina House secured the necessary votes Thursday to override McCrory’s veto. Previously, the Senate had voted to do the same.

The legislation, known as Senate Bill 2, will allow magistrates and registers of deeds to decline to participate in any marriage — not just same-sex ones — if they object to the marriage on religious grounds. Critics say it will open the door to all sorts of discrimination, not just discrimination of gays and lesbians, given its vague language.

North Carolina is just one of many states that have considered legislation ahead of the Supreme Court’s gay marriage decision that would give public officials as well as private businesses the ability to not participate in same-sex marriages on religious grounds. Religious freedom legislation in Indiana and Arkansas thought to be discriminatory to gay people caused a national stir this spring, prompting lawmakers to narrow the laws’ scopes.

Even though McCrory said he believes marriage should be limited to heterosexual couples, he opposed the bill on constitutional grounds, arguing, “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.”

Gay marriage became legal in the state last fall.

“It is tremendously disappointing that the legislature chose to override Governor McCrory’s veto of this misguided and mean-spirited legislation,” said Marty Rouse, national field director for the Human Rights Campaign, in statement. “Allowing public officials the ability to opt-out of the job they are paid by the public to do is completely contrary to the purpose of public service and should have no place in North Carolina law.”

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