Lawmakers in North Carolina have sent a bill to the governor's desk that would allow state and county officials responsible for issuing marriage licenses to refuse to participate in same-sex marriages, based on their religious beliefs.
The office of Gov. Pat McCrory tells The Advocate there's been no decision yet whether to sign Senate Bill 2, which would amend 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 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 Campaign for Southern Equality denounced the passage of the measure this morning, and vowed in a news release to mobilize the LGBT community, allies, and people of faith to speak out against the bill as it heads to the governor's desk. 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. To be certain, if this bill becomes law, it will invite a new round of court challenges. Ultimately, like Amendment 1, this law will fail.'