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‘Cowardice or treason’: Republican governor vetoes religious freedom bill in North Carolina

Fr. Mark Hodges Fr. Mark Hodges

RALEIGH, NC, June 1, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Republican Governor Pat McCrory vetoed a bill ensuring the conscience rights of North Carolina Christian magistrates after it passed the state House and Senate. The legislation, known as Senate Bill 2, specifically upholds the right of magistrates and employees of county register of deeds to recuse themselves from officiating at homosexual “wedding” ceremonies.

The measure respects the court's decision, allowing homosexuals the right to get legally “married” – and significantly penalizes those who refuse to perform such ceremonies. The law would allow a magistrate to refuse to perform a same-sex “wedding” – but only if he or she refrained from performing any marriages for six months.

Under the proposal, if all magistrates in a county recuse themselves from performing marriages, then the chief judge would request an outside magistrate, who performs the marriage. If all employees of a register of deeds office recuse themselves, the elected registrar would issue the marriage license himself or herself.

Governor McCrory announced that he would veto Senate Bill 2 on the same day that he received a threatening letter from John Pope, chairman of Cargo Transporters, which employs 750 North Carolinans. Pope warned that he would take more than $20 million in Freightliner business out of state to Mexico if the bill became law.

McCrory spokesman Josh Ellis insisted the governor had decided to veto the bill before getting the letter.

"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," McCrory said in a statement following his veto. "However, 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."

"Such a stance by a Republican governor is especially egregious," said Dr. Mark Creech, executive director at the Christian Action League of North Carolina. "It can only be prompted by cowardice or treason to religious liberty. Religious freedom is our first constitutional right."

North Carolina Values Coalition spokeswoman Jessica Wood agreed, "It is unacceptable for any Governor who calls himself 'conservative' to veto legislation like SB 2."

In 2012, North Carolina voters overwhelmingly approved a state constitutional amendment defining marriage as being between one man and one woman, effectively barring same-sex "marriage." But federal judges overturned that amendment last fall after the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down a similar law in neighboring Virginia.

North Carolina's Administrative Office of the Courts issued a directive to magistrates statewide to either perform same-sex “marriages” or face disciplinary action and possible firing.

Six magistrates have already quit in the past seven months, because they believe marriage is a union between one man and one woman. They refused to violate their consciences. Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger sponsored Senate Bill 2 after a magistrate in his own district resigned rather than preside over a same-sex “wedding.”

Supporters of Senate Bill 2 say it effectively balances the rights of state employees who object to same-sex marriage and the rights of the couples seeking a wedding.

Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore said, "Senate Bill 2 is necessary because a bureaucracy failed to make reasonable accommodations, and instead forced some magistrates to make an impossible choice between their core religious beliefs and their jobs."

Rep. Dean Arp said the bill was motivated by one underlying question: “Should you be fired from a job because you choose to live your life by those religious beliefs?”

Rep. Paul Stam, R-Wake, added that the right to opt out is needed to conform to employment discrimination law. Magistrates, he said, are "entitled to accommodation" on religious grounds.

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The House passed the bill Thursday by a 67-43 vote; The Senate passed it 32-16. The Senate could override the governor's veto; whether the House can muster the votes to override is uncertain.

The veto was the governor’s first in the current legislative session, which began in January.

McCrory has an aversion to social issues as a whole. When McCrory ran for election as governor, he promised a moratorium on pro-life legislation.

Contact:
Gov. Pat McCrory
E-mail contact form: http://www.governor.state.nc.us/contact/email-pat
Phone: (919) 814-2000
Fax: (919) 733-2120
20301 Mail Service Center
Raleigh NC 27699-0301

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