Governor vetoes North Carolina religious objection bill on same-sex marriage

Gov. Pat McCrory (R-N.C.)

Gov. Pat McCrory (R-N.C.)

Gov. Pat McCrory (R-N.C.)

Gov. Pat McCrory (R-N.C.)

Updated: 9:30 p.m. EDT

RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory vetoed Thursday a religious exemption bill that would allow some court officials to avoid gay marriage duties.

His decision, announced hours after lawmakers gave final approval to the measure, puts him at odds with social conservatives in his Republican Party and GOP legislative leaders spearheading the legislation.

Now the General Assembly must decide whether to override that veto and enact the bill, which gives magistrates and some register of deeds workers the ability to avoid duties for all marriages if they have a “sincerely held religious objection.”

McCrory said in a written statement 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.” But, he added, “we are a nation and a state of laws.”

“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,” McCrory said.

McCrory vetoed the bill a half-hour after his public statement, spokesman Josh Ellis said. The bill now returns to the legislature. To enact the law over McCrory’s objections, at least three-fifths of the lawmakers voting in each chamber must support an override.

The House and Senate already passed the bill by margins above the threshold, although the House 67-43 vote Thursday was barely above it. Ten House members had excused absences and didn’t vote.

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Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, who introduced the bill, and House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, didn’t address a possible override in a joint statement. They said they “respect but disagree with the governor’s decision.”

Gay rights group Equality North Carolina praised the veto and urged lawmakers to keep the veto in place.

“Both actions will send a strong message that no public official is exempt from the constitution they themselves have sworn to uphold and that all North Carolinians deserve equal access to state services under the law,” group executive director Chris Sgro said.

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