North Carolina Legislative Building. Photo by Jmturner, via Wikimedia.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Long expected by LGBT advocates, Republican legislators in North Carolina this week introduced so-called “religious freedom” bills that could open the door to widespread discrimination against LGBT residents and others.

Similar legislation was recently passed by Indiana’s legislature and signed by Indiana Gov. Mike Pence on Thursday.

The legislation, the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” was introduced in the North Carolina House of Representatives on Tuesday (House Bill 348). The exact same language was introduced as a bill in the state Senate on Thursday (Senate Bill 550).

Equality North Carolina, the statewide LGBT advocacy organization, slammed the legislation this week.

“With the Senate’s version of this discriminatory bill, North Carolina’s conservative leadership in both legislative chambers have now officially launched their efforts to dress up anti-LGBT discrimination by calling it ‘religious freedom,'” Chris Sgro, Equality North Carolina executive director, said in a release on Thursday. “While the bill does not expressly mention the LGBT community, we’ve seen this cynical tactic play out in many parts of the country in many different ways. Now these leaders are bringing this divisive debate to our state where North Carolina’s true values of fairness and equality are under attack.”

Sgro added, “In the wake of these threats from our state’s most extreme anti-LGBT leaders, we ask our supporters to join us right now as we prepare to fight this, and any attacks on LGBT North Carolinians, during this legislative session.”

North Carolina’s legislation would allow individuals, businesses, associations and others the right to ignore laws which they say violate their religious beliefs.

“State action shall not burden a person’s right to exercise of religion, even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability,” the legislation reads.

LGBT advocates have said it could allow businesses and individuals to ignore existing or future non-discrimination laws. The proposed law’s definition of “exercise of religion” is overly vague, defining it as: “The practice or observance of religion. It includes, but is not limited to, the ability to act or refuse to act in a manner substantially motivated by one’s sincerely held religious beliefs, whether or not the exercise is compulsory or central to a larger system of religious belief.”

Potential instances of discrimination made legal under the act affect not only LGBT residents, but also other minorities.

This week’s legislation had been promised by state House Speaker Pro Tempore Skip Stam earlier this year. The legislation was supposed to have been discussed by leading North Carolina-based hate groups and legislators at a briefing in January, though that event was later canceled.

The state is already considering another so-called “religious freedom” bill, Senate Bill 2, designed to exempt magistrates and registers of deeds from assisting citizens and residents with civil same-gender marriages. It passed the Senate on Feb. 25 and is currently in a state House committee.

Advocates are asking citizens to take action on this week’s introduced legislation.


Matt Comer previously served as editor from October 2007 through August 2015 and as a staff writer afterward in 2016.

33 replies on “Anti-LGBT ‘religious freedom’ bill comes to North Carolina”

  1. My religion ( I worship a 7-foot vynal statue of Conway Twitty) says that I should kill and eat you if you walk on my front lawn. Or pull into a parking space I was about to use.

    It’s my religious freedom to do this.

  2. Why are the members of our N.C. government so hateful and such bigots? I am ashamed that our state is so backward in equality, teacher pay, education and so many other things. Did these people all get their positions paid for with big money?

      1. Yeah, why don’t Republican legislators find a state that suits them better and move there? I totally agree.

  3. So now that I can marry legally here, if this shameful bill gets life in this state, I may not be able to be served in a restaurant? What ever happened to separation of the church and state?

  4. North Caolina is proud to be considered as part of The South, and rightly so. I know Jehovah Witnesses who live there; I wonder how they will be protected under the law if passed? The South always struggled to get back back to 1860. Look at Texas where a group wants the confederate flag on their license plate when they already have it all over their car, clothies and tatooed on their ass!

  5. Will someone who lives in NC PLEASE contact your Democratic house/senate members and tell them to propose an amendment to the bill stating that, in order to prevent conflict and embarrassment for both parties, businesses need to post a sign stating who they do not wish to serve. A senator in OK did this and their bill died in embarrassment. IN did not, and theirs passed.

      1. Ellen Shaver –
        In light of the fact that Paul “Skippy” Stam – on of the ring leaders of this current madness in the NCGA – represents a district in Wake County almost exclusively populated by transplants who continue to re-elect him to the legislature, I echo Gary’s plea for you to stay where you are. We don’t need anymore people moving to NC.

  6. if you have to make a law that hurts people in order to “prove” your faith or morals, then maybe, just maybe, you don’t really have faith or morals to prove!

  7. Indiana is already in the process of losing business over similar legislation (the NCAA has spoken). North Carolinians, ya better stand up and fight or states like mine ( Maryland) will get your business. Jus sayin

  8. Go GOP party of hate. Thank you once again for showing us all the ugliness that lies within this party of greed, hate, segregation and discrimination. Show us your true Christian extremist values of dominionism, tyranny and theocratic bigotry.

  9. They already have ‘religious freedom’ as guaranteed by the Constitution. We also have freedom from religion guaranteed by the same Constitution. Legislative action attempting to force one’s religious beliefs on another is unconstitutional and will never stand up to that test. Federal judges are standing by with pens ready to strike down any such nonsense passed by the bigots in Raleigh. Tell your representatives they have to add a clause to the bill requiring businesses to publicly post who they are not willing to serve, and this will die quietly in committee. Worked in Oklahoma.

  10. There exists a measurably sized group to whom concept of progress means remaining unchanged. The driving force of their misinterpretation or ignorance is a fear of the unknown or different. This fear is mainly founded on oddly interpreted religious views, also sadly known as “traditional family values”. To them I say this: if there is a “God”, you certainly don’t understand them and it is inconceivable to me how you could trust the writing of shepherds, fishermen and farmers from thousands of years ago to have grasped and put down, in ARABIC mind you, a beyond quantum physics description of creation and then interpret this fairytale (and there are better ones) to mean you shouldnt sell a black man or homosexual a cheeseburger. If there actually is a god, she is laughing her big, black, gay ass off at you.

    1. So lets change the meaning of words as the left does. gay does not mean happy it means homosexual. The word homosexual means religious belief. case closed.

  11. As a commercial interior designer I would stop specifying all products (furniture, carpet, etc.) made in North Carolina and I have asked all LinkedIn and Facebook design peers to do the same.

  12. How is a law protecting ones religious freedom giving permission to disrespect and disgard others. I don’t understand.

  13. Gary… Would you please explain to me why Susan’s presence in a restaurant would affect your life? Or how Ellen opening a business here is bad for the state in any way? I’d appreciate it, as I just don’t understand how the non-violent — even loving — acts of others affect you or anyone else. I’m hoping you’ll take a moment to answer and that your response does not tell me what you think God or the bible wants. Thank you

  14. Gary us the prime example of the closed minded stupidity that our legislators have by introducing this bill.

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