By Colin Campbell

Gov. Pat McCrory formally vetoed a bill to exempt magistrates from performing marriages late Thursday, saying "we are a nation of laws" despite his personal opposition to gay marriage.

The official veto message was posted Friday morning, one day after the House voted 67-43 to pass Senate Bill 2.

The bill would allow magistrates and register of deeds employees to opt out of performing weddings if they have a religious objection -- a response to workers who quit their jobs after same-sex weddings became legal in North Carolina last year.

McCrory said those employees must uphold the law even if they disagree with it.

"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," he wrote in the veto message.

"However, we are a nation and a state of laws. Whether it is the president, governor, mayor, a law enforcement officer or magistrate, 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; therefore, I veto Senate Bill 2."

The bill now returns to the Senate and House, which can override the veto if three-fifths of both chambers vote in favor of the legislation. With McCrory planning a veto, 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. Of those, five are Republicans, four are Democrats, and one is unaffiliated Rep. Paul Tine, who's part of the GOP caucus.

An override is more likely in the Senate, where the 32-16 vote on Feb. 25 represents two-thirds of the chamber.

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