RALEIGH — The Republican governor of North Carolina has vowed to veto a bill that would allow some judges to opt out of participating in same-sex ceremonies.
S.B. 2 was introduced earlier this year by Sen. Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) to allow magistrates to recuse themselves from officiating over the services, as well as to permit register of deeds workers to opt out of issuing licenses due to religious objections. The bill comes with one condition: that the individual remove themselves from the marriage business altogether.
“Every magistrate has the right to recuse from performing all lawful marriages … based upon any sincerely held religious objection,” it reads. “Such recusal shall be upon notice to the chief district court judge and is in effect for at least six months from the time delivered to the chief district court judge.”
“Every assistant register of deeds and deputy register of deeds has the right to recuse from issuing all lawful marriage licenses under this Chapter based upon any sincerely held religious objection,” the bill continues. “Such recusal shall be upon notice to the register of deeds and is in effect for at least six months from the time delivered to the register of deeds.”
“This bill provides a balancing act to make sure marriages across this state are performed in a blind fashion,” said Rep. Dean Arp (R-Monroe) told the Raleigh News & Observer. “The question is: Should you be fired from a job because you choose to live your life by those religious beliefs?”
In February, the Senate voted 32-16 in favor of the bill, sending the matter on to the House, which likewise passed the measure 67-43.
But homosexual advocates in the state urged Gov. Pat McCrory to veto the legislation, stating that judges shouldn’t have the right to decline to participate simply because of their religious convictions.
“We call on Gov. McCrory, who has already opposed the premise of this bill, to veto this discriminatory legislation and send a strong message that no public official is exempt from the Constitution they’ve sworn to uphold,” Equality North Carolina Executive Director Chris Sgro said in a statement.
On Thursday, McCrory, who was raised Presbyterian, said he would do just that.
“I recognize that 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 said.
“However, we are a nation and a state of laws,” McCrory stated. “Whether it is the president, governor, mayor, a law enforcement officer, or magistrate, 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; therefore, I will veto Senate Bill 2.”
Lawmakers are now considering the next step, including whether another vote will be taken to override the veto.
McCrory has been in headlines before over vows to veto legislation, including in 2013, when he required lawmakers to revise an abortion bill because he said that it would restrict women’s access to abortion.
Photo: Hal Goodtree