N. Carolina’s religious-exemption gay marriage bill now law

Jun 11, 2015, 10:18 AM

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — A measure allowing some court officials to refuse to perform gay marriage responsibilities because of their religious beliefs became law in North Carolina on Thursday, but opponents said litigation challenging the new measure was likely to come soon.

The state House voted Thursday to override Republican Gov. Pat McCrory’s veto of the bill, making the law effective immediately. The Senate voted to override last week.

North Carolina becomes the second state with such an exemption for court officials. Utah passed a similar one earlier this year.

The new law means some register of deeds workers who assemble licenses and magistrates to solemnize civil marriages can decide to stop performing all marriages if they hold a “sincerely held religious objection.”

The law “protects sincerely held religious beliefs while also ensuring that magistrates are available in all jurisdictions to perform lawful marriages,” House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, said in a statement.

Gay rights groups and Democrats who opposed North Carolina’s bill said after the vote that litigation was likely to be filed soon. Republicans supporting the measure said federal laws provided religious accommodations to government officials, in keeping with the U.S. and state constitutions.

McCrory had said no one who takes a government oath should be able to avoid performing the duties that it requires.

“It’s a disappointing day for the rule of law and the process of passing legislation in North Carolina,” McCrory said in a statement. McCrory had been unhappy with several days of delays before the override vote by House leaders, while Democrats complained that the GOP used a parliamentary maneuver Thursday to abridge debate.

The law says court officials who disclose a “sincerely held religious objection” must stop performing marriage duties for both gay and heterosexual couples for at least six months. The chief District Court judge or the county register of deeds — both elected officials — would fill in on marriages if needed.

Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, introduced the bill shortly after federal rulings last October overturned North Carolina’s voter-approved constitutional ban on gay marriage. Berger responded to several magistrates who resigned when the state’s top court administrator wrote in a memo that those who declined to officiate for same-sex couples could be punished, terminated or face charges.

Providing religious accommodations are “the way employment law has worked for more than 50 years, and it was only in this misguided memo … that even started this issue,” said Rep. Paul Stam, R-Wake, a key supporter of the law.

In his May 28 veto message, McCrory said many North Carolina residents, including him, believe marriage is between a man and a woman. But “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,” McCrory wrote.

The Senate overturned McCrory’s veto quickly, but House Republicans put off a vote because some supporters of the original bill were absent. Others were on the fence, according to lawmakers.

Opponents said the bill created a new form of discrimination similar to biases of a generation ago against multiracial marriages. They also said the bill didn’t prevent delays for gay couples getting married if a court official suddenly disclosed a religious objection when a couple approached the office counter of the magistrate or a register, particularly in smaller counties with smaller staffs.

The state ACLU urged people who encountered “new hurdles” getting married to contact its office. “This shameful backlash against equality will make it harder for all couples in our state to marry,” state Executive Director Sarah Preston said.

Rep. Cecil Brockman, D-Guilford, apologized to all lesbian and gay couples in North Carolina for the House’s action. “Your love is not different than anybody else’s love in this state,” he said at a news conference. His attempt to apologize publicly on the House floor after the vote was ruled out of order by Moore and halted.

McCrory’s decision put him at odds with social conservatives aligned with Republicans. Concerned Women for America accused McCrory of betraying state residents and forcing court officials to violate their consciences.

“It’s hard to believe that any governor — much less a conservative one — would veto a bill protecting the religious freedoms of his constituents,” North Carolina Values Coalition Executive Director Tami Fitzgerald said.

Thursday’s House vote of 69-41 was just over the three-fifths majority needed. Ten House members were absent and didn’t vote. Three Democrats joined all but three Republicans present in voting for the override.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

United States News

Former President Donald Trump tosses caps to the audience as he arrives at a rally Friday, Aug. 5, ...
Associated Press

Congress can get Trump tax records, appeals court rules

WASHINGTON (AP) — A federal appeals court sided Tuesday with a House committee seeking access to former President Donald Trump’s tax returns, rejecting Trump’s contention that Congress was overstepping. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit agreed with a lower court judge’s decision in favor of Congress. […]
13 hours ago
President Joe Biden signs the Instruments of Ratification for the Accession Protocols to the North ...
Associated Press

Biden formalizes US support for Finland, Sweden joining NATO

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden formally welcomed Finland and Sweden joining the NATO alliance Tuesday as he signed the instruments of ratification that delivered the U.S.’s formal backing of the Nordic nations entering the mutual defense pact, part of a reshaping of the European security posture after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. “In seeking to […]
13 hours ago
FILE - This undated photo courtesy of Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife shows a wolf of th...
Associated Press

US sued in bid to force decision on Rockies wolf protections

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Wildlife advocates sued federal officials Tuesday after the government missed a deadline to decide if protections for gray wolves should be restored across the northern U.S. Rocky Mountains, where Republican-led states have made it easier to kill the predators. The Biden administration said in a preliminary finding last September that protections […]
13 hours ago
FILE- In this 1955 file photo, Carolyn Bryant poses for a photo. A grand jury in Mississippi has de...
Associated Press

Grand jury declines to indict woman in Emmett Till killing

A grand jury in Mississippi has declined to indict the white woman whose accusation set off the lynching of Black teenager Emmett Till nearly 70 years ago, despite revelations about an unserved arrest warrant and an unpublished memoir by the woman, a prosecutor said Tuesday. After hearing more than seven hours of testimony from investigators […]
13 hours ago
Associated Press

Chicago top prosecutor: Vacate convictions tied to ex-cop

CHICAGO (AP) — The Cook County state’s attorney’s office on Tuesday asked judges to vacate eight murder convictions connected to a retired Chicago police detective accused of framing others who were sent to prison. State’s Attorney Kim Foxx told reporters that her office no longer will oppose post-conviction litigation in eight cases following a 2019 […]
13 hours ago
FILE - Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, a lawyer for President Donald Trump, speaks during a ne...
Associated Press

Giuliani must go to Atlanta for election probe, judge says

ATLANTA (AP) — A judge said Tuesday that Rudy Giuliani must appear in Atlanta in person to testify before a special grand jury that’s investigating whether former President Donald Trump and others illegally tried to influence the 2020 election in Georgia and set his appearance for next week. The former New York mayor and Trump […]
13 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Ways to prevent clogged drains and what to do if you’re too late

While there are a variety of ways to prevent clogged drains, it's equally as important to know what to do when you're already too late.
...
Sanderson Ford

Don’t let rising fuel prices stop you from traveling Arizona this summer

There's no better time to get out on the open road and see what the beautiful state of Arizona has to offer. But if the cost of gas is putting a cloud over your summer vacation plans, let Sanderson Ford help with their wide-range selection of electric vehicles.
...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Tips to lower your energy bill in the Arizona heat

Does your summer electric bill make you groan? Are you looking for effective ways to reduce your bill?
N. Carolina’s religious-exemption gay marriage bill now law