A prominent GOP lawmaker has come to
the defense of and proposed legislative relief for North Carolina
officials who refuse to marry gay and lesbian couples.
North Carolina Senate Leader Phil
Berger Sr. said Tuesday that he will introduce legislation that would
protect magistrates and registers of deeds who, citing their
religious faith, refuse to issue marriage licenses or perform
weddings for gay couples, the News
& Observer reported.
The announcement comes after a
magistrate in Berger's home county resigned his post rather than
marry gay couples following a federal judge's ruling striking down
the state's marriage ban and ordering officials to begin issuing
marriage licenses regardless of sexual orientation.
“The court's expansion of the
freedoms of some should not violate the well-recognized
constitutional rights of others,” the Rockingham Republican said.
“Complying with the new marriage law imposed by the courts should
not require our state employees to compromise their core religious
beliefs and First Amendment rights in order to protect their
Chris Sgro, executive director of
Equality NC, said in a statement that Berger was simply wasting
“Sen. Berger continues to waste
taxpayer dollars and ignore the real issues of the day, like our
economy, education, and the environment,” Sgro said. “The issue
at hand is not about individuals' rights to freedom of religion and
Berger, as an attorney, should understand the law well enough to know
that. The issue [is] employees of the State of North Carolina doing