Metro Weekly

North Carolina Senate approves opt out for same-sex marriage

Officials can remove themselves from working on same-sex marriages under the bill


North Carolina’s state Senate has approved a measure which would allow court officials to opt out of performing same-sex marriages.

The bill, sponsored by Republican Senate leader Phil Berger, would grant government workers the right to decline to work on a specific marriage case should a religious conflict arise, the Associated Press reports. Magistrates and workers in register of deeds offices can remove themselves from proceedings under the bill, which is presumably a response to the recent legalization of same-sex marriage in the state, after a federal judge struck down the state’s ban on equal marriage last year.

However, the bill is so vague in its wording that officials can object to working on any marriage which is against their religious belief, not specifically those between same-sex couples.

“We’re not saying that the First Amendment outweighs any other rights that exist,” Senator Berger said, “[but] there should be an accommodation when there is a conflict between rights.”

Sen. Josh Stein (D, Wake) told AP that the bill, which will now head to the state House, could inspire similar bills for other areas of government, such as Revenue Department workers unhappy with filing a same-sex couple’s tax returns, or an employee at the state Zoo refusing to issue a family pass to a same-sex family.

“We don’t have the right to pick and choose who we serve for the public,” Stein said. “It’s public services, not selective services.”

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