- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 28, 2015

A North Carolina bill permitting court officials to “opt out” of marriage duties if they didn’t want to perform gay marriages has been sent to the governor.

However, Gov. Pat McCrory has vetoed the bill — sending it back to lawmakers, who could vote to override it.

“I recognize that for many North Carolinians, including myself, opinions on same-sex marriage come from sincerely held religious beliefs that marriage is between a man and a woman,” Mr. McCrory said Thursday afternoon in announcing his decision to veto the bill, according to WTVD-TV in Raleigh.

“However, we are a nation and a state of laws,” he said, and “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.

“Therefore, I will veto Senate Bill 2,” Mr. McCrory said.

The North Carolina House approved the Senate-passed bill Thursday.

It was not immediately clear what the lawmakers planned to do. The state Senate passed the bill with votes to spare for an three-fifths override vote; in the House, the bill was approved by a two-thirds majority, according to WRAL-TV in Raleigh, N.C.

Utah is the only other state that has approved such a “conscience” exemption, WTVD said, citing the National Conference of State Legislatures.

The North Carolina bill addressed concerns that government workers will be coerced to violate their sincerely held religious beliefs about marriage if they are required to participate in same-sex marriages.

The bill would allow magistrate judges and employees in the county Register of Deeds offices who object to gay marriages to stop performing all marriage duties if they objected to same-sex nuptials. All counties would have to ensure that officials were available to issue and conduct marriage ceremonies for gay couples.

Gay-rights groups like the Campaign for Southern Equality said it was “shameful” to permit public officials to avoid enacting same-sex marriages. They promised lawsuits to overturn the law if it was enacted.

• Cheryl Wetzstein can be reached at cwetzstein@washingtontimes.com.

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