North Carolina Enacts Religious Protections for Marriage Officials

Lynde Langdon | Monday, June 15, 2015

North Carolina Enacts Religious Protections for Marriage Officials

The North Carolina House voted in early June to override the governor’s veto and institute religious freedom protections for state employees who perform marriages and issue marriage licenses. The law creates a legal way for magistrates and workers in register of deeds offices to opt out if they have a “sincerely held religious objection” to same-sex marriage.

Under the law, employees with religious objections can refuse to participate in same-sex weddings but also must stop performing all marriages for at least six months. The chief district court judge or the county register of deeds—both elected officials—would fill in on these marriages if needed.

State Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, introduced the bill last year after federal court rulings overturned the state’s voter-approved constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman. Several magistrates resigned their jobs to avoid having to officiate at same-sex weddings.

The law “protects sincerely held religious beliefs while also ensuring that magistrates are available in all jurisdictions to perform lawful marriages,” House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, said in a statement.

With a vote of 69-41, the House overrode the veto of Republican Gov. Pat McCrory, who said state officials should not be allowed to refuse to do their duties.

McCrory previously said he believes marriage is between one man and one woman, but added that “no public official who voluntarily swears to support and defend the Constitution and to discharge all duties of their office should be exempt from upholding that oath.”

The Senate voted to override McCrory’s veto a week earlier. With the House vote, the law became effective immediately.

Courtesy: Religion News Service

Publication date: June 15, 2015

North Carolina Enacts Religious Protections for Marriage Officials