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Updated 11 p.m.

GREENSBORO — After Gov. Pat McCrory said Thursday that he will veto legislation that allows magistrates and register of deeds employees to opt out of some marriage duties, gay rights advocates and others said they hope the conversation is over.

“I think this should be the end of it,” said Guilford County Register of Deeds Jeff Thigpen, who urged the governor to veto the legislation as soon as possible. “There are over 300 couples who have come in and gotten marriage licenses and been married and have gone on with their lives.

“We need to move forward and recognize that we don’t all agree on this issue and many others ... but we are going to apply the laws equally,” Thigpen

Senate Bill 2 was written after court rulings in October officially legalized same-sex marriage in the state. N.C. Senate leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) promised to file it after a magistrate in Wentworth resigned rather than be required to perform marriages for homosexual couples.

“A majority of the people’s elected representatives in both chambers agreed that this bill strikes an appropriate balance between the expansion of rights for some and our constitutionally protected freedom of religion,” Berger said in a joint statement issued Thursday with House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland).

Political observers say that because of the number of legislators who voted against SB 2, it would be difficult to override a veto by McCrory.

“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,” McCrory said in a statement.

Jessica Wood of the NC Values Coalition issued a statement that said the legislation would protect the “fundamental American freedom to exercise one’s religious beliefs.”

“It is unacceptable for any governor who calls himself ‘conservative’ to veto legislation like (Senate Bill) 2,” said Wood, the group’s communications director.

N.C. House and Senate members who were against the bill had strong but varied reasons in opposing it. Other elected officials, like Thigpen, said if the bill became law, it would make providing services to the public more burdensome.

“Under that scenario, I’m having to single out the gay couple to find someone to give them a license,” Thigpen said. “Do you know how humiliating that can be?”

The North Carolina chapter of the ACLU has called the legislation unconstitutional and unfathomable.

“All North Carolina taxpayers are supporting these government offices, and everyone who is legally eligible to get married should expect the same treatment from their government,” said Mike Meno, the group’s communications director.

State Rep. Pricey Harrison (D-Guilford) said after the final vote that her fellow legislators should be more concerned with improving education, the economy and access to health care.

Harrison added that Amendment One’s fate should be a lesson here. North Carolina voters approved Amendment One, which defined marriage as between a man and a woman, only to see a federal judge strike it down.

“Once again, the taxpayers are going to be spending money defending unconstitutional legislation,” she said. “We need to be focused elsewhere.”

State Rep. Jon Hardister (R-Guilford) went against the majority of Republicans and was one of four GOP members voting against the bill.

“I believe that public employees have an obligation to treat all citizens equally according to the law, regardless of their personal beliefs,” Hardister said.

He said he was worried the legislation could pose a “slippery slope” that could result in other government employees asking for an exemption from doing their jobs.

“The best way for government to operate is for public employees to remain unbiased in their service to the public, ” Hardister said.


Updated 5:50 p.m.

The state's two top Republican lawmakers -- Sen. Phil Berger , president of the Senate, and Rep. Tim Moore, speaker of the House -- just issued a statement in defense of Senate Bill 2 and in response to the announcement by Gov. Pat McCrory that he intends to veto the legislation:

"We respect but disagree with the governor’s decision to veto Senate Bill 2, since the First Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees “the free exercise of religion.” And Article 1, Section 13 of the North Carolina Constitution protects the “inalienable right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own consciences” and states, “no human authority shall, in any case whatever, control or interfere with the rights of conscience.

“A majority of the people’s elected representatives in both chambers agreed that this bill strikes an appropriate balance between the expansion of rights for some and our constitutionally-protected freedom of religion.”


Updated 4:15 p.m.

Gov. Pat McCrory announced this afternoon that he will veto Senate Bill 2. His office released the following statement:

"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. 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 will veto Senate Bill 2."


Updated at 2:42 p.m.

GREENSBORO — The opposition has expressed strong but varied concerns about legislation passed by the General Assembly earlier today that would allow magistrates and register of deeds employees to recuse themselves from some marriage duties.

The Republican-led legislation was written after the passage of same-sex marriage in October.

“I know Governor McCrory has expressed significant concerns with this bill,” Guilford County Register of Deeds Jeff Thigpen said. “I urge him to veto it as soon as possible.”

Among Thigpen’s concerns is the practical application of the legislation in his department and especially smaller ones, if it becomes law. Under that law, employees who had religious concerns would not be required to perform same-sex marriages, but also any other marriages. His department is already grappling with retirements and employees who are on leave — and he would then have to factor in who could and could not perform specific duties , even based on who is at lunch.

And then, there are the people who are standing there seeking a license, with friends and family in tow.

“Under that scenario, I’m having to single out the gay couple to find someone to give them a license,” Thigpen said. “Do you know how humiliating that can be?”

The North Carolina ACLU calls the legislation unconsitutional — and unfathomable.

“All North Carolina taxpayers are supporting these government offices and everyone who is legally eligible to get married should expect the same treatment from their government,” said Mike Meno, the group’s communications director.

State Rep. Pricey Harrison, a Guilford Democrat, said after the final vote that her fellow legislators should be more concerned with improving education, the economy and access to health care. She said Amendment One’s fate should be a lesson here. Voters approved Amendment One, which defined marriage as between a man and a woman, only to see it struck down by a federal judge.

“Once again the taxpayers are going to be spending money defending unconstitutional legislation, ” Harrison said. “We need to be focused elsewhere.”

State Rep. Jon Hardister of Guilford was one of four Republicans voting against the measure.

“I believe that public employees have an obligation to treat all citizens equally according to the law, regardless of their personal beliefs,” said Hardister, who also says he expects the governor will veto the bill, based on past conversations with his staff and public comments the governor has made about the bill.

Hardister also worries that the legislation could pose a “slippery slope” that could result in other government employees seeking an exemption from doing their jobs.

“The best way for government to operate is for public employees to remain unbiased in their service to the public. ” Hardister said.


RALEIGH (AP) — North Carolina legislators have agreed to give some court officials the option to refuse to carry out same-sex marriage duties based on religious objections.

The House gave final approval to the Senate measure Thursday. The bill now goes to Gov. Pat McCrory, who's expressed concern over giving exemptions to people who take government oaths. McCrory could veto the measure.

Utah is the only other state that's approved such an exemption.

The North Carolina law would apply to magistrates and some registers of deeds employees. They would have to stop performing duties for both gay and heterosexual couples. Elected court officials would fill for marriages if needed.

Opponents said the measure essentially creates discrimination, but supporters say government workers should not have to be fired for their religious beliefs.

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