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 livelihoods.”

Chris Sgro, executive director of Equality NC, said in a statement that Berger was simply wasting taxpayer dollars.

“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 their jobs.”