June 3, 2015 at 7:30 am EST | by Chris Johnson
N.C. lawmakers may override veto of anti-gay marriage bill
North Carolina, State Capitol, Raleigh, Gay News, Washington Blade

North Carolina State Capitol by Jim Bowen via Wikimedia Commons.

The North Carolina Legislature is headed toward overriding Gov. Pat McCrory’s veto of legislation that would allow magistrates to opt out of performing same-sex marriages.

Ahead of an anticipated ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court on whether same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry, McCrory last week vetoed the legislation, Senate Bill 2, after the legislature approved the bill, saying he was acting in an effort to defend the Constitution.

But Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger put the bill to a vote in his chamber to override the veto, which succeeded in a 32-16 vote. For an override vote to succeed in the North Carolina Legislature, three-fifths of the members present must vote affirmatively on the bill in both chambers.

The bill now heads to the House, where the vote on passing the bill to move it to the governor’s desk, 66-44, was exactly the margin that would be necessary to override the legislation if all legislators are present. In the event an override vote takes place in the House, LGBT advocates in North Carolina say it would be close.

Although the bill is scheduled for an override vote in the House on Wednesday, House Speaker Tim Moore is quoted in the Associated Press saying the override may not happen quite so quickly.

Moore reportedly said the bill won’t be considered for override until he has a firm vote count on the measure. The House vote is in question because 10 members were absent last week when the chamber gave the bill final legislative approval.

The legislation would enable magistrates and registers of deeds to opt out of providing legal marriage services or issuing marriage licenses for a six-month period to same-sex couples — or any couple — based on a religious objection.

Although the legislation doesn’t explicitly mention same-sex marriage and would require a magistrate to abstain from performing marriages until a recusal is rescinded, opponents of the bill say the legislation would have a discriminatory impact on same-sex couples.

A religious freedom bill seen to enable anti-LGBT discrimination in Indiana earlier this year garnered significant media attention and business opposition that led to a change to the law, the same opposition is lacking in North Carolina.

The top three companies headquartered in North Carolina — Bank of America, BB&T and Belk — didn’t come out against SB2 when contacted by the Blade about the legislation.

Brian Davis, a spokesperson for BB&T, was the only representative among the three companies to respond to a request for comment, and he declined to oppose the bill.

“As a corporation, BB&T does not take formal positions on non-banking legislation or other political and social issues,” Davis said.

Also this week, the Alabama State Senate passed by a vote of 22-3 legislation that would remove the state from the business of issuing marriage licenses via probate judges altogether. Under the legislation, Senate Bill 377, couples would instead take a contract witnessed by a couple’s pastor.

The legislation heads to the House, where a committee hearing is scheduled on Wednesday. Although the bill is a reaction to court decisions in favor of same-sex marriage, LGBT advocates aren’t mounting a full-scale assault against it.

Susan Watson, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama, said her organization has “bigger fish to fry” than SB 377.

“We really don’t like it that much, we think it’s unnecessary and it’s bad that gay people are going to be blamed for changing marriage in Alabama,” Watson said. “But, on the other hand, it treats everybody the same, so it’s kind of unnecessary and stigmatizing to gay people, but it does treat people the same across the board.”

State Rep. Patricia Todd (D-Birmingham), the only out lesbian in the Alabama Legislature, said she likes the bill, just not the anti-gay spirit from which it emerged. The Senate sponsor, Sen. Greg Albritton (R-Madison), called her after he filed it to ask for her support, Todd said.

“I actually like the bill, but not where it came from, I think it is a win-win for us and will support it if it comes to the House floor.

Many have long believed that the state/county should not be in the “marriage” business but they do have a role in filing a contract between two parties.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

  • NYCLawyer1

    I suppose that it comes as no surprise that nobody in Alabama cares about the issues of separation of church and state and freedom of non-believers and non-affiliated people not to have to go to clergy to be wed. Even the Alabama Civil Liberties Union does not take this seriously!

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