VETO OVERRIDE: N.C. House rules officials may recuse themselves from same-sex weddings

by Gregory Tomlin, |
Cindy Bovee-Kemper (L) and Lisa Bovee-Kemper apply for a marriage license they knew they would be denied as part of the "We Do Campaign" in Winston-Salem, N.C., Jan. 14, 2013. A U.S. District Court judge, however, overturned the state's constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex marriage a year later. Now, legislators in the state have overridden the veto of Republican Gov. Pat McCrory of a bill that allows state officials to recuse themselves on religious grounds from issuing a same-sex marriage license or performing a same-sex wedding. | REUTERS/Colleen Jenkins

RALIEGH, N.C. (Christian Examiner) – The North Carolina House of Representatives has overridden Gov. Pat McCrory's veto of a bill that allows government officials the right to recuse themselves from performing or participating in same-sex marriages on religious grounds, making the bill law in the state.

Under the provisions of the law, Senate Bill 2, government officials may not be terminated for recusing themselves from performing or licensing a same-sex marriage. However, should they refuse to perform the services, they are barred from performing any marriage – even traditional marriage between a man and a woman – for a period of six months.

The House and the Senate made the right call in overriding Governor McCrory's ill-advised veto and we are grateful for their continued leadership in fighting to preserve this fundamental American freedom.

Under the provision, same-sex couples may still receive a marriage license or obtain the administrative services of another government official. Same-sex marriage became legal in North Carolina in 2014 when a U.S. District Court judge ruled in General Synod of the United Church of Christ v. Cooper that the state's 2012 constitutional amendment prohibiting gay marriage was "unconstitutional."

McCrory, a conservative Republican, said state officials had taken an oath to fulfill the duties required by law, and refusing to participate in same-sex weddings was a violation of that oath of office.

After the House overrode the governor's veto, McCrory issued a statement claiming, "It's a disappointing day for the rule of law and the process of passing legislation in North Carolina. I will continue to stand up for conservative principles that respect and obey the oath of office for public officials across our state and nation."

"While some people inside the beltway are focusing on symbolic issues, I remain focused on the issues that are going to have the greatest impact on the next generation, such as creating jobs, building roads, strengthening education and improving our quality of life," McCrory said.

The Senate also overrode the governor's veto June 1.

According to Reuters, North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore said in a statement after the vote that the law "protects sincerely held religious beliefs while also ensuring that magistrates are available in all jurisdictions to perform lawful marriages."

Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, executive director of the gay rights advocacy group Campaign for Southern Equality, said in a statement state officials should expect an immediate legal challenge to the law.

"This bill, which will now become law, is discriminatory and treats gay and lesbian couples as second class citizens," Beach-Ferrara said. "We are more determined than ever to achieve full equality for LGBT people in North Carolina and to ensure that LGBT youth know that they are not alone."

Tami Fitzgerald, executive director of the North Carolina Values Coalition, said in a statement following the override of Gov. McCrory's veto of Senate Bill 2 that the Senate and House had both acted in the best interest of personal religious freedom.

"It's hard to believe that any governor – much less a conservative one – would veto a bill protecting the religious freedoms of his constituents," Fitzgerald said in the statement.

"The House and the Senate made the right call in overriding Governor McCrory's ill-advised veto and we are grateful for their continued leadership in fighting to preserve this fundamental American freedom."