Republican Governor Pat McCrory on
Thursday vetoed a bill approved by North Carolina lawmakers that
would allow some court officials to opt out of duties related to
marrying gay and lesbian couples.
The bill, SB2, would allow magistrates
and some register of deeds workers to avoid duties for all marriages
based on a “sincerely held religious objection.”
In a statement, McCrory said 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.”
He added, “we are a nation and a
state of laws.”
“No public officials who voluntarily
swears to support and defend the Constitution and to discharge all
duties of their office should be exempt from upholding that oath,”
Gay couples began marrying in North
Carolina in October after the state's ban on gay marriage was struck
down by a federal court.
The measure's chief sponsor, Senate
leader Phil Berger, a Republican, vowed to introduce the legislation
shortly after a magistrate in his district decided to resign after 12
years rather than marry gay couples.
Berger organized a rally for John
Kallam Jr. outside the Rockingham County Courthouse.
“[F]orcing Magistrate Kallam to give
up his religious liberties to save his job is just wrong,” Berger
said at the time.
Luke Largess, lead counsel in the
lawsuit that helped strike down North Carolina's ban, criticized
final passage of the bill in the House.
“It is shameful that this bill has
passed our legislature,” he said in a statement provided by The
Campaign for Southern Equality. “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
Berger has denied that his bill is
“Read it. Show me the discriminatory
language and I'll say, 'Hey, that's discriminatory language.' It's
not in the bill. It's in their imagination,” Berger told ABC 11.
Lawmakers have not said whether they
will attempt to override McCrory's veto.