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McCrory promises veto of Marriage Objections Bill

By Stephanie Carson

NC News Service

RALEIGH – After passing the state House and Senate, the so-called marriage objections bill will be vetoed, according to Gov. Pat McCrory. In a statement, the governor said he is called by the duties of his office to defend the Constitution.

If signed, Senate Bill 2 would have allowed magistrates, judges, and Register of Deeds employees to recuse themselves from providing marriage licenses to or performing ceremonies for same-sex couples, based on the religious beliefs of those officials.

“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,” McCrory said. “However, we are a nation and a state of laws. 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.”

The governor’s stance is welcome news to the Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara with the Campaign for Southern Equality and other same-sex marriage advocates. She said lawmakers should have fully considered the impact of such a law if put in place.

“You strip away all the rhetoric that we’ve been hearing from the Legislature and you think about the people that are involved,” she said. “What would it be like to be a gay couple on what should be one of the happiest days of your life; you go to the marriage license office to get your license and turns out there’s someone there who won’t serve you?”

The legislation was introduced after same-sex couples were able to legally marry in North Carolina after Amendment 1 was struck down by federal courts. Supporters of the legislation said it was meant to protect the religious beliefs of government employees. In his statement, McCrory did state his religious belief is that marriage is between a man and a woman.

Meanwhile, two supporters of the legislation, Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) and House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) issued the following joint statement Thursday:

“We respect but disagree with the governor’s decision to veto Senate Bill 2, since the First Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees ‘the free exercise of religion.’ And Article 1, Section 13 of the North Carolina Constitution protects the ‘inalienable right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own consciences’ and states, ‘no human authority shall, in any case whatever, control or interfere with the rights of conscience.’

“Unfortunately, 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. A majority of the people’s elected representatives in both chambers agreed that this bill strikes an appropriate balance between the expansion of rights for some and our constitutionally-protected freedom of religion,” the joint statement ended.

While McCrory has said he will veto the bill, Beach-Ferrara said it doesn’t negate the time and effort lawmakers spent on the legislation while other bills languished on the floor of the State Assembly.

“There is such critical issues in our state right now in terms of people who are struggling to find work, families that are struggling to make rent,” she said, “and to think that legislatures are spending the level of time and resources and energy that they are on a bill that is clearly discriminatory, clearly unfair and clearly unconstitutional.”

Information on SB 2 is online at ncleg.net.