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
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.”