RALEIGH, N.C. — The North Carolina Senate has voted to override the governor’s veto of a bill that would allow some judges to opt out of participating in same-sex ceremonies.
As previously reported, 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.”
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. On Thursday, McCrory, who was raised Presbyterian, vowed to 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.”
He officially vetoed the bill hours later.
But legislators decided to take the matter up for a second vote to override McCrory’s veto. A three-fifths majority vote is needed to do so.
On Monday, the Senate voted 32-16 in favor of the override, sending the matter on to the House, which is expected to vote today.
“If someone takes a job, they don’t park their First Amendment rights at the door,” sponsor Phil Berger declared. “They are entitled to exercise those rights.”
He noted that federal law requires that “reasonable accommodations” be made surrounding the convictions of religious employees. House Speaker Tim Moore has made similar notations.
“Senate Bill 2 is necessary because a bureaucracy failed to make reasonable accommodations, and instead forced some magistrates to make an impossible choice between their core religious beliefs and their jobs,” he said.
Photo: Jim Bauer