Refusing To Perform Gay Weddings In North Carolina Is About To Become A Legal Thing People Can Do
North Carolina state officials are making efforts to ensure people who don't want to follow same-sex legalization don't have to. The House voted Thursday to support a measure that would allow North Carolina officials to refuse to perform same-sex marriages on religious grounds. The House supported the measure in both in its Wednesday vote and final 67-43 vote on Thursday. The vote was divided heavily by political party identification.
The religious objections would have to be "sincerely held," but there's no clear definition of what that means, according to the AP. The bill was passed by the Senate a few months ago, where it came from Republicans as a response to same-sex marriage legalization in the state last October. Now, it will go to Gov. Pat McCrory, a Republican, for his signature. Josh Ellis, communications director for the governor, told BuzzFeed that they are "still reviewing the bill." The governor will have 10 days to sign or veto the bill once it reaches his desk. If he doesn't take any action on it within 10 days, then the bill will become law.
McCrory voiced concerns about the bill in March and said he wouldn't sign it, according to the Charlotte Observer. He didn't say he would veto it, though, which means he could still allow it to become law without signing it. McCrory spoke to WFAE in March about why he opposed the bill:
At this time, I would not sign it the way it’s written because … I don’t think you should have an exemption or a carve-out when you swore an oath to the constitution of North Carolina or to the Constitution of the United States of America.
The bigger reason why opponents say McCrory should veto the bill is because it could allow further discrimination against same-sex couples, according to the Observer. If a same-sex couple has to wait to get married because a magistrate refuses to marry them, then they don't actually have the same access to marriage that heterosexual couples do. Rep. Grier Martin, a Democrat from Wake County, told the AP that it would add an inconvenience only felt by same-sex couples:
They shouldn't have to wait any longer than a heterosexual couple should.
Proponents of the bill say there is an incentive for magistrates not to refuse, because workers who seek the exemption couldn't perform a wedding for at least a six-month period, according to the Observer. How this waiting period would be enforced is unclear. The Observer said the House vote devolved into a religious debate on Thursday. Rep. Bert Jones, a Republican from Rockingham County, claimed same-sex marriage destroys traditional ideas and values, according to the AP:
It is goal of the secular left to destroy the family and to destroy the institution of marriage.
The bill is sponsored by Senate leader Phil Berger, a Republican. On Wednesday, nearly all Democrats voted against it, and they were joined by five Republicans, according to the AP. Similar "religious freedom" measures have been passed in Indiana and Arkansas, and they've been criticized by LGBT activists because they could encourage discrimination against same-sex couples. House Democratic Leader Larry Hall, who voted against the bill, told the Observer that this was exactly his worry:
We’re creating a situation where people can discriminate against other members of society ... and not be removed from their position. I’m not going to be in favor of legislating second-class citizenship.
Images: Getty Images (2)