North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory vetoed a bill on Thursday that would have allowed state officials to refuse to perform marriage based on their beliefs. Although not explicitly targeted at same-sex couples, activists argued the law is in fact anti-gay. McCrory’s veto was announced shortly after the House of Representatives passed the legislation piece.
McCrory argued that the US Constitution guarantees the right to get married for all US citizens, regardless of gender. “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,” the governor said.
The law does not mention same-sex marriages at any point, but its critics have argued that it is specifically designed to allow some state officials to exempt themselves from performing gay ceremonies. Moreover, the law would have also prevented said couples form getting marriage licenses. Its critics believe that it if approved, the bill has the potential to become an effective ban on same-sex unions.
McCrory’s veto came shortly after the North Carolina House of Representatives passed the measure in a 67 to 43 vote. Earlier this year, in February, the Senate voted 32 to 16 in favor of the bill. The law enjoyed large support from North Carolina’s Republican majority and McCrory, who is also a Republican, had a tough decision to make.
“I recognize that for many North Carolinians, including myself, opinions on same-sex marriage come from sincerely held religious beliefs that marriage is between a man and a woman,” the state governor acknowledged. Nonetheless, he argued, personal beliefs must be put aside and constitutional rights must be defended.
Now, the House can still try to override the veto, but in order to do so a three-fifths majority would be required. Although a little over 60 percent of the House members voted in favor of the bill, meeting the majority to override the veto might prove a bit more difficult. At least 10 legislators were absent or didn’t vote on Thursday, and they might actually be the key point in getting the bill passed or decisively blocking it.
McCrory will also be faced with a difficult choice regarding another controversial bill, this time on abortion. The bill would make North Carolina women to wait three days before getting an abortion, but what concerns human rights activists more is that it would significantly reduce the number of doctors who would perform the procedure.
With governor elections coming soon, McCrory has to keep a 2008 promise, when he suggested that no further restrictions on abortions will get approved during his term. But keeping promises means he will sometimes have to go against both his personal beliefs and his party’s will.
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