North Carolina Passes Religious-Exemption Same-Sex Marriage Bill

North Carolina's governor vetoed the bill, but the state's Senate and House voted to override him. (Photo of North Carolina's state capitol courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Today, in North Carolina, some court officials can now legally refuse to perform same-sex marriage responsibilities based on their religious beliefs.

The state House voted to override Republican Gov. Pat McCrory's veto of the bill 69-41. The Senate voted to do the same a week ago.

In his May 28 veto message, McCrory said that while he and other North Carolina residents believe that marriage should be between a man and a woman, “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.”

Essentially, the law means that workers who assemble licenses and magistrates to solemnize civil marriages can decide not to perform the marriages if they hold a “sincerely held religious objection.” Once they make that decision, they cannot perform any kind of wedding for at least six months.

Critics rightly pointed out that this could create significant delays for couples looking to marry, heterosexual or same-sex, especially in locations with smaller workforces. This suggests the new legalities may have paved the way for a more subtle, passive aggressive type of discrimination.

Before North Carolina, only the state of Utah passed a similar exemption, earlier this year. But it’s not out of the realm of possibility that other states may follow suit.

Whether you believe in same-sex marriage, this type of legal exception seems like a loophole — one allowing some freedom of choice for some while denying it, if only temporarily, to others.