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North Carolina GOP leader to advance anti-gay ‘religious freedom’ bill

North Carolina GOP leader to advance anti-gay ‘religious freedom’ bill

RALEIGH, N.C. — One of the North Carolina House of Representatives’ top Republican leaders has announced plans to move forward with an anti-LGBT “religious freedom” discrimination measure initially promised by a Senate colleague last fall.

Paul Stam
Paul Stam AP

State Rep. Paul “Skip” Stam, who was re-elected speaker pro tempore of the House during the opening of the legislature’s new session on Wednesday, has announced that House leaders will hold a legislative briefing Jan. 28 on a proposed “religious freedom” bill.

State Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger said last October that he’d be introducing legislation designed to allow registers of deeds and magistrates to opt out of serving LGBT citizens if doing so “would violate their core religious beliefs.”

The bill comes in response to continued court rulings opening legal marriage to LGBT couples. In North Carolina, federal courts ruled in October to overturn the state’s anti-LGBT marriage amendment. Those rulings, and several resignations of anti-LGBT magistrates across the state, prompted Berger’s comments in the fall.

Statewide LGBT advocates have consistently objected to plans for such a bill, and spoke out again Wednesday.

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“With this announcement, Rep. Stam is now joining Sen. Berger in a transparent effort to dress up anti-LGBT discrimination by calling it ‘religious freedom,’” Chris Sgro, executive director of Equality North Carolina, said in a statement. “This is an unconstitutional political stunt that the United States Supreme Court has consistently said it won’t allow.”

Sgro added, “We’ve seen this cynical tactic play out in many parts of the country in many different ways. Now these leaders are bringing this divisive debate to our state where North Carolina’s true values of fairness and equality are under attack. We ask our supporters to join us as we prepare to fight this, and any attacks on LGBT North Carolinians, during this legislative session.”

Similar bill are being considered in Virginia and Indiana.

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