The override succeeded in the House on Thursday by a vote of 69-41, which is three votes more than the three-fifths vote needed for the legislative maneuver. The Senate already succeeded in overriding the veto last week by a vote of 32-16.
The legislation, Senate Bill 2, would enable magistrates and registers of deeds to opt out of issuing marriage licenses for a period of at least six months to same-sex couples — or any couple — based on a religious objection.
McCrory, a Republican who opposes same-sex marriage, vetoed the bill after the legislature initially sent it to him earlier this month, saying “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.”
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mention same-sex marriage and would require a magistrate to abstain from performing marriages until a recusal is rescinded, opponents of the bill say the legislation would have a discriminatory impact on same-sex couples.
Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, executive director of the pro-LGBT Campaign for Southern Equality, predicted LGBT advocates would seek to challenge the law in the courts.
“Senate Bill 2 is unconstitutional, and will undoubtedly be challenged in court,” Beach-Ferrara said. “This bill, which will now become law, is discriminatory and treats gay and lesbian couples as second class citizens. We are more determined than ever to achieve full equality for LGBT people in North Carolina and to ensure that LGBT youth know that they are not alone.”
Same-sex marriage is legal in North Carolina as a result of a federal court decision last year against the state’s prohibition on gay nuptials known as Amendment One. By the end of this month, the U.S. Supreme Court will issue a decision on whether same-sex couples have the right to marry across the country.
Jake Sussman, an attorney with the Charlotte-based Tin Fulton Walker & Owen and lead counsel in the North Carolina marriage case, said the new law also runs contrary to the U.S. Constitution.
“This law is nothing more than state sanctioned discrimination,” Sussman said. “It is a terribly misguided attempt to rewrite what equal protection under the law means. Equality and fairness are not principles that are decided on a case-by-case basis, dependent upon who happens to be working the counter on a particular day. Neither the United States Constitution nor the North Carolina Constitution permit any such thing. It is terribly unfortunate that this many elected officials don’t understand that.”
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, nor did the North Carolina Chamber.
Neither the White House nor the campaign for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton responded to requests to comment on Senate Bill 2.
Sarah Preston, acting executive director of the ACLU of North Carolina, lambasted the legislature for overriding the governor’s veto on the legislation.
“This a sad day for North Carolina that history will not judge kindly,” Preston said. “Just eight months after our state extended the freedom to marry to same-sex couples, extremist lawmakers have passed discrimination into law, allowing government officials to deny marriage services to virtually any couple. This shameful backlash against equality will make it harder for all couples in our state to marry and force many to spend what is supposed to be a happy day trapped in a maze of government offices.
Also opposing the enactment of Senate Bill 2 and suggesting the measure is unconstitutional was Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt, the first openly gay person elected as mayor of the city.
“I condemn today’s N.C. House override of the governor’s veto of Senate Bill 2,” Kleinschmidt said. “Now the law in North Carolina, Senate Bill 2 carves out a constitutional exception to a public servant’s duty to provide equal access and justice under the law. All North Carolinians now have the possibility of being denied the services of a magistrate or register of deeds. Couples that include a divorced person, interracial couples, couples from different faiths, as well as same-sex couples have historically faced condemnation based on the religious beliefs of others.