North Carolina Legislative Building. Photo Credit: Dave Crosby, via Flickr. Licensed CC.

RALEIGH, N.C. — The North Carolina Senate on Monday evening easily overrode Gov. Pat McCrory’s veto on a controversial piece of legislation that would allow magistrates and registers of deeds to opt out of performing civil marriage services and ceremonies for same-gender couples. The House has not yet held a similar vote.

The action on Monday came at the disappointment of statewide LGBT advocacy leaders.

“Despite the opposition voiced from the business community to local leaders across the state, our elected officials voted to allow public servants to discriminate against loving same-sex couples,” Equality North Carolina Executive Director Chris Sgro wrote to supporters in an email message following the vote.

The override vote also garnered swift reaction from the Senate’s Democratic caucus.

“Instead of focusing on the issues that matter most to North Carolinians, such as bringing jobs to this state, and ensuring our children have access to the highest quality public education, Phil Berger and Senate Republicans continue to focus on divisive social legislation,” a statement from the caucus via Senate Democratic Whip Terry Van Duyn (Buncombe) read.

Van Duyn’s statement continued: “We saw just three weeks ago yet another car company pass over North Carolina, as Volvo announced South Carolina as the home of their newest auto plant. And yet instead of opening doors to meaningful debate on our state’s spending plan for the next two years, leadership continues to focus on the wrong priorities.”

Representatives with the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBT civil rights group, also condemned the legislation and its successful Senate veto override. The group calls the bill “unnecessary” and “mean-spirited.” He urged the House and Speaker Tim Moore (Cleveland) to sustain McCrory’s veto.

“For the sake of the state’s commitment to fairness and economic growth, the North Carolina House should echo Governor Pat McCrory and reject this needless and mean-spirited bill,” HRC Field Director Marty Rouse said in a statement. “Speaker Tim Moore has heard from countless fair-minded North Carolinians who oppose this legislation, now he should help lead the fight to halt it once and for all.”

The Senate’s final override vote came in at 32-16. The Senate had earlier passed the bill in February. That vote was also 32-16. The bill passed the House last week, with McCrory vetoing it later that day.

Conflicting reports indicate that Moore has said an override vote could come in his chamber as soon Tuesday or Wednesday.

The Senate’s override vote came after brief debate. Primary bill sponsor, Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger (said the bill provides the necessary “balance” and “accommodation” for public employees with “strongly held religious beliefs.”

“Civil servants have rights, too,” Berger said on the floor, citing the title of an article he said he’d read last week. “The government should respect those rights. Just because someone takes a job with the government does not mean they give up their rights… or their ability to act on their beliefs.”

Democratic Sen. Angela Bryant (Halifax, Nash) said the bill provided a dangerous loophole that could open the doors to discrimination.

Voting no in the override vote was Charlotte’s Sen. Joel Ford. The Democrat had earlier provoked the ire of some LGBT constituents and community members when he voted in favor of the bill in February. He said over the weekend he would change his vote and seek to sustain the governor’s veto.

Ford’s change of mind came, he said, after realizing the bill could create hardships in smaller counties with fewer magistrates. Ford had also recently met with LGBT constituents and leaders with the LGBT Democrats of Mecklenburg County.

Ford and another Democratic senator, Ben Clark of Cumberland and Hoke Counties, were the only two Democrats to vote in favor of the bill in February. Clark voted Monday evening to override the veto.

Three Republicans voted against the override, including Mecklenburg County’s Sen. Jeff Tarte, Cabarrus County’s Sen. Fletcher Hartsell and Wake County’s Sen. John Alexander.

All other votes fell along party lines, with Republicans overwhelming supporting the bill.

Advocates thank McCrory for veto
House passes bill, McCrory vetoes


Matt Comer

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

8 replies on “N.C. Senate overrides McCrory veto on anti-LGBT magistrate refusal bill”

  1. And now even more businesses will avoid North Carolina, even with substantial tax-break offerings by the same backwards legislators. It’s no wonder graduates of our universities flee the state immediately, opting for jobs in more progressive areas of the country where church and state are actually separated.

  2. This is great news. America is based on the right of free associations. We cannot force anyone to do what is against their deepest conscience. We need to be tolerant of the faith and religious beliefs of others.

    1. But not be tolerant of how people live, right, Pierre Tardy? You don’t see that as a double-standard, do you?

  3. So if this override carries, does this mean that civil servants that work for the Dept is Social Services and the Health Dept can refuse to give Medicaid benefits to women who are pregnant without benefit of marriage or refuse to provide birth control to unwed women or refuse to provide food benefits to people ‘living in sin’? How far are they going to take this refusal to obey the law due to personal religious beliefs? What will a Christian couple say if a Muslim or Jewish magistrate refused to marry them? Can these civil servants also refuse to marry Pagans due to religious beliefs? This is not just against LGBT rights – this is letting personal opinion supersede federal law. And that is unconstitutional.

  4. Public servants get to exercise their religious rights by not being civil servants. Their religious rights don’t mean that law no longer applies to them.

    If they don’t want to serve the public, maybe they shouldn’t be public servants.

  5. Anti-LGBT bill? The ignorance of the liberal media is amazing.

    I don’t know how many muslim/islamic magistrates there are in NC but you will soon see worse beliefs imposed on the public than any Christian belief.

    Pretty sure there are other less popular religions like Scientology or Mormonism that have unpopular beliefs too.

    Just remember, God created marriage. Marriage is between a man and a woman.
    Society created the coveted monetary benefits for marriages that everyone is after. I believe everyone is entitle to that same-sex or not. Call it a same-sex union, which is what it is, but a marriage is the union of a man and women only.

Comments are closed.