North Carolina’s House of Representatives on Thursday pushed through legislation permitting government officials to refuse to perform same-sex marriages by citing religious objections, overriding the governor’s veto.
The action allows the measure passed by the state’s Republican-controlled legislature to become law, protecting public officials who oppose same-sex marriages from losing their jobs.
Governor Pat McCrory, also a Republican, had said the officials should not be exempt from upholding their oath, with same-sex marriage now legal in North Carolina.
North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore said in a statement after the vote that the law “protects sincerely held religious beliefs while also ensuring that magistrates are available in all jurisdictions to perform lawful marriages.”
Under the measure, magistrates and other officials can refuse to perform marriages or issue marriage certificates if they cite a “sincerely held religious objection.”
Once they request to opt out, the magistrates would be barred from performing any marriage, gay or heterosexual, for six months.
Gay rights advocates said a court challenge is expected.
“This bill, which will now become law, is discriminatory and treats gay and lesbian couples as second class citizens,” Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, the executive director of the advocacy group Campaign for Southern Equality, said in a statement.
(Writing by Letitia Stein; Editing by Susan Heavey and Mohammad Zargham)