Dan Forest, the Republican lieutenant governor of North Carolina, has defended a new law allowing magistrates not to marry gay and lesbian couples, saying that it “doesn't discriminate against anybody.”

Lawmakers last week overrode Republican Governor Pat McCrory's veto of the bill.

The new law allows magistrates and some register of deeds workers to avoid duties for all marriages based on a “sincerely held religious objection.” While the law does not specifically mention sexual orientation, its sponsor vowed to introduce the legislation after a magistrate decided to quit rather than marry gay couples.

Appearing on the Family Research Council's (FRC) Washington Watch radio program, Forest said that the law was needed because the federal court that struck down North Carolina's gay marriage ban had overstepped its bounds.

The court said that North Carolina officials “have to perform those marriages” and “went so far as to making sure that law was going to be enforced,” Forest said.

He claimed that by protecting the religious freedom of magistrates, the law does the “opposite” of discriminating and argued that it's constitutional because it has the approval of lawmakers.

“It doesn't discriminate against anybody, in fact it does just the opposite. It provides a reasonable accommodation for our magistrates to opt out of all marriages altogether,” he said.

“The Legislature determines all the roles and duties of the magistrates. So, even in this case, the Legislature is clearly within their bounds to tell the … magistrates what their duties duties are. … This is basically saying that they are upholding the constitution, because this is what the Legislature said is legal.”

“You're not telling them they can't have a ceremony,” Forest added. “It's just protecting the religious beliefs of those who don't want to do it.”