By Colin Campbell
A bill to allow magistrates to opt out of performing marriage is headed to Gov. Pat McCrory's desk after the North Carolina House approved it in a 67-43 final vote Thursday.
In March, McCrory voiced concerns about the bill and said he won't sign it. He stopped short, however, of saying he would veto it. The governor can allow bills to become law without his signature.
Senate Bill 2 would allow magistrates and register of deeds employees to be exempt from performing weddings if they have a religious objection. Opponents of the measure say it would allow discrimination against same-sex couples, though workers seeking the exemption couldn't perform any type of wedding for at least a six-month period.
"This bill provides a balancing act _ to make sure marriages across this state are performed in a blind fashion," said Rep. Dean Arp, a Monroe Republican. "The question is should you be fired from a job because you choose to live your life by those religious beliefs."
Equality North Carolina, an LGBT advocacy group, asked McCrory to veto the legislation. "We call on Gov. McCrory, who has already opposed the premise of this bill, to veto this discriminatory legislation and send a strong message that no public official is exempt from the constitution they've sworn to uphold," executive director Chris Sgro said in a news release.
Only one House member changed their mind between Wednesday's initial 65-45 vote and Thursday's final tally: Rules Chairman David Lewis, a Dunn Republican. Lewis voted against the bill on Wednesday but voted yes on Thursday.
"I spent a lot of time reflecting on the issue, and I think it's important to recognize that there are quite a few fallacies in the arguments against the bill," he said. "The right to choose who marries you and who doesn't marry you isn't a right, and that was misconveyed in the debate. The right is to get married, and this bill doesn't infringe upon it."
With the bill out of the legislature, all eyes are on McCrory. He has three options: sign the bill into law, allow it to become law without his signature, or veto the bill.
If McCrory breaks out the veto stamp, Thursday's House vote tally indicates that a three-fifths majority to override a veto might prove challenging for the Republican leadership. About 61 percent of the legislators voting Thursday supported the bill, but 10 House members were absent or didn't vote.
McCrory made his position on Senate Bill 2 clear during a Charlotte radio interview in March: "I don't think you should have an exemption when you took an oath to uphold ... the constitution of North Carolina," he said. If the governor doesn't veto the bill within 10 days, it will automatically become law.
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