RALEIGH – The North Carolina Senate voted this evening 32-16 to override Governor Pat McCrory’s veto of Senate Bill 2, legislation that would allow county magistrates and other state employees to opt-out of performing marriage ceremonies for religious reasons.
“Just because they work for the state government does not mean they give up their rights,” said Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger (R-Rockingham).
The measure came in wake of a recent federal court decision that ruled North Carolina’s ban on same-sex marriages was unconstitutional. Under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, federal law requires all employers to provide reasonable accommodations for employees’ strongly-held religious beliefs. Bill sponsors say this legislation provides a mechanism for the state, as an employer, to follow that existing federal law.
Senate Bill 2 gives officials the option of recusing themselves for six months from performing all marriage ceremonies, not just same-sex unions. It also requires that an official eligible to perform ceremonies be on duty during all the published hours a courthouse offers them. Supporters of Senate Bill 2 call it a compromise.
“If the Federal law says that same-sex marriages will be performed in North Carolina, then they will be. But then we must also follow the federal law that says workers religious beliefs must be accommodated within reason,” said Senator Berger.
However, those objecting to the bill said it undermines the oath that a state official takes upon entering their post. “They pledged to uphold the law. It doesn’t say, ‘except for those that are against their religious beliefs,’” said Sen. Floyd McKissick (D-Durham)
Other objectors claim it could have a negative economic impact on the state or that it could lead to officials refusing to perform interracial marriages.
“In a week where we heard that another automaker had chosen South Carolina, Senate Bill 2 sends the message that North Carolina is not open for business for all,” said Senator Terry Van Duyn (D-Buncombe)
Senate Bill 2 will likely face a bigger battle in the N.C. House where members are expected to take it for reconsideration later this week.