Metro Weekly

Gay marriage hangs in balance in N.C.

Bill would allow state officials to refuse to participate in marriage ceremonies based on religious objections


The future of same-sex marriage in North Carolina remains uncertain as the N.C. House of Representatives decides what action to take on a bill that allows state officials to refuse to issue a license or perform a ceremony due to religious objection.

The bill was vetoed by Governor Pat McCrory (R) last month, who stated that sworn officials must carry out their duties regardless. As well as letting officials recuse themselves from a same-sex ceremony, the bill also protects them from being sued for failing to carry out the duties of their office. While the bill does not exclusively apply to gay and lesbian couples, it is clear that the LGBT community is the chief target, particularly after a federal judge struck down North Carolina’s voter-approved constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in October last year.

However, lawmakers who support the measure note that the bill would not ban same-sex marriages. The chief district court judge or register of deeds in a county would be able to make other arrangements to allow a couple who was rejected to find another magistrate or employee willing to issue a marriage license or perform a marriage ceremony.

On Tuesday, the Senate voted to override McCrory’s veto on a vote that broke along party lines. House Speaker Tim Moore had placed the House’s vote on the measure on Wednesday’s legislative calendar, but a vote was never called. The bill has since been placed on Thursday’s legislative calendar. The initial bill passed the House with a comfortable majority, but Moore would need to gain five more votes to achieve the 72 for a veto override.

In comments to the Raleigh-based News & Observer, a spokeswoman for Moore said on Tuesday that Republican leaders were still deciding on when to vote. Sources close to legislative leaders believe that Moore might wait until the numbers in the House chamber would be able to put the bill over the top, which Moore called a “veto opportunity zone.”

The Campaign for Southern Equality, which has attempted to organize to defeat the bill and uphold McCrory’s veto of the measure, issued its own statement.

“The fact that Senate Bill 2 was not voted on by the House is a testament to the waning support for this discriminatory bill,” said Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, the executive director of the Campaign for Southern Equality. “North Carolina is better than SB2, and the only thing keeping this bill alive is cynical political maneuvering. People all across the state are speaking out against this bill, and we will continue to mobilize until it is defeated.”

UPDATE: According to a House calendar released Thursday afternoon, the House is scheduled to reconsider an override of McCrory’s veto of SB2 on Monday, June 8. The session for that day convenes at 7 p.m.

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John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at

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