RALEIGH, N.C. — LGBT advocates have come out in praise of Gov. Pat McCrory’s decision Thursday to veto controversial legislation that would allow magistrates and others to opt out of providing civil marriage ceremonies and services to same-gender couples.
The praise — from local advocates to national groups — comes as the governor faces swift backlash from those on the anti-gay right.
On Thursday, the bill, Senate Bill 2, passed the House, it’s last stop in the legislature before heading to McCrory’s desk. Hours later, McCrory said he intended to veto the bill.
“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,” McCrory said in a statement. “However, we are a nation and a state of laws. Whether it is the president, governor, mayor, a law enforcement officer or magistrate, 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.”
Equality North Carolina’s executive director, Chris Sgro, praised McCrory’s decision, saying the decision send “strong message that no public official is exempt from the constitution they themselves have sworn to uphold and that all North Carolinians deserve equal access to state services under the law.”
Similarly, the ACLU of North Carolina’s acting executive director, Sarah Preston, also thanked the governor.
“We applaud Governor McCrory for pledging to veto this discriminatory measure, and we urge the General Assembly to keep government services open for all North Carolinians by sustaining the governor’s veto,” she said.
The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBT civil rights group, also responded.
“We’re pleased to see that the governor will veto this needless and unfortunate legislation,” HRC National Field Director Marty Rouse said in a statement. “Officials who swear an oath to serve the public should serve the whole public without reservation. We believe the governor’s veto should be the last word on this bill, which does nothing to serve the interests of the people of North Carolina.”
On Friday, HRC urged its supporters to contact McCrory and thank him for his decision.
Meanwhile, McCrory is facing backlash from leaders at the legislature and anti-gay lobbyists in the state.
Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger, who sponsored the bill, and House Speaker Tim Moore, who took the unusual step as speaker of voting for the bill, issued a joint statement disagreeing with McCrory.
“We respect but disagree with the governor’s decision to veto Senate Bill 2, since the First Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees ‘the free exercise of religion,’” the leaders’ statement read. “Unfortunately, Senate Bill 2 is necessary because a bureaucracy failed to make reasonable accommodations and instead forced some magistrates to make an impossible choice between their core religious beliefs and their jobs.”
McCrory faced a stinging rebuke from the NC Values Coalition, an anti-LGBT hate group responsible for North Carolina’s now-overturned anti-LGBT marriage amendment.
“A veto of religious freedom legislation like Senate Bill 2 is not acceptable from a Governor who calls himself ‘conservative,'” the group told its members in an action alert.
The bill will now head back to the legislature where leaders are expected to attempt a veto override. The state Senate likely has the votes to override McCrory’s veto. It’s less clear how the override vote will proceed in the House. There, four Republicans voted against the legislation in its final Thursday vote.