North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory today announced he will kill a controversial bill passed by both North Carolina's House and Senate that would have allowed public employees charged with issuing marriage licenses to refuse to issue such licenses to same-sex couples.
In declaring he would veto Senate Bill 2, the Republican governor said his purpose was to defend the Constitution:
"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. 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 bill, sponsored by Republican Sen. Phil Berger, passed the state House today by a vote of 66 to 44. It passed the state Senate in February. The bill would have amended state law to allow magistrate judges and register of deeds employees to recuse themselves from providing marriage licenses, or performing marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples -- or any couple at all -- if they feel their religious beliefs are being violated.
The Campaign for Southern Equality denounced the passage of the measure this morning, and had vowed in a news release to mobilize the LGBT community, allies, and people of faith to speak out against the bill. The LGBT group positioned the legislation as a response to the arrival of marriage equality in the state after the voter-approved Amendment 1, which banned same-sex marriage in the state, was struck down last October.
"This discriminatory bill treats gay and lesbian couples as second-class citizens and distorts the true meaning of religious freedom. We urge Governor McCrory to veto this discriminatory bill," said Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, executive director of the Campaign for Southern Equality. "We have the freedom to practice religion in our place of worship and to hold private beliefs. But as Americans, we've agreed that we will be governed by the principles of equality and fairness in our public and civic life. Senate Bill 2 is discriminatory and rooted in animus - it must not become law."
"It is shameful that this bill has passed our legislature," added Luke Largess, of Charlotte-based Tin Fulton Walker & Owen, and lead counsel in General Synod of the UCC v. Reisinger, the lawsuit that struck down Amendment One last October. "It is nothing more than state-sanctioned discrimination and a naked attempt to make a political statement without much care for how it hurts and demeans others."
McCrory was elected in 2012 as North Carolina's first Republican governor in 20 years, and his first term ends next year.