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North Carolina GOP governor says he won’t back state’s religious exemption bills

North Carolina GOP governor says he won’t back state’s religious exemption bills
Gov. Pat McCrory (R-N.C.)
Gov. Pat McCrory (R-N.C.)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory said Monday he isn’t backing bills giving exemptions to court officials who don’t want to officiate same-sex marriages and offering other religious protections to businesses.

Appearing on WFAE radio in Charlotte, the Republican governor criticized, in its current form, a Senate bill that allows magistrates and some register of deeds workers to refuse to carry out marriage duties based on a “sincerely held religious objection.”

Under the bill, the official wouldn’t be allowed to perform any marriage, not just same-sex marriages.

“I don’t think you should have an exemption or a carve-out when you swore an oath to the Constitution of North Carolina or to the Constitution of the United States of America,” McCrory said. “Even if there are things in the constitution that I disagree with that are upheld by the courts.”

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The bill cleared the Senate in February and now sits in a House judiciary committee. When asked whether he’d sign the bill or veto it if it came to his desk, McCrory said: “At this time I would not sign it the way it’s written.”

A bill still becomes law when a governor declines to sign it. McCrory’s fellow Republicans hold veto-proof majorities in the House and Senate, meaning they could choose to override a governor’s objections if GOP lawmakers remain together.

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LGBT rights advocates contend the measure upholds legal discrimination, as would a pair of bills filed last week called the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act.”

The broader bills, which have yet to be heard, attempt to protect the rights of business owners or government officials from having to carry out laws that would burden the ability of a person to follow one’s religious beliefs.

McCrory expressed skepticism of the bill. “What is the problem they’re trying to solve,” he asked, adding “I haven’t seen it at this point in time.” A similar proposal cleared a House committee in 2013.

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Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signed a bill into law last week with the same name as the North Carolina legislation. Critics of that measure say it promotes discrimination against gays and lesbians, although lawmakers who supported the bill say the measure is designed to uphold diverse religious beliefs.

Businesses and organizations across the country have canceled future travel to Indiana or tabled expansion plans there because of the law.

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