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House Overrides Gov. McCrory's Veto On Same-Sex Marriage Exemption Bill

Chad Biggs (left), 35, and Chris Creech, 46, were the first gay couple to be wed in Wake County.
Jorge Valencia

The N.C. House of Representatives voted Thursday to override Gov. Pat McCrory's veto of Senate Bill 2, though no real debate was allowed. 

The bill - which is now law - permits magistrates and county register of deeds employees to exempt themselves from offering same-sex marriage duties because of "sincerely held religious" objections. 

Three-fifths of the members present must approve to override a veto. On Thursday, with 10 members absent, the final vote was 69-41. The Senate overrode the veto earlier this month.

"The reason we need to pass this is to accommodate our public servants in accordance with the law," Rep. Paul Stam (R-Wake) said Thursday.

Democratic representatives held a press conference shortly after the vote, calling today a "sad day" and a "legislative ambush." 

House Democratic Leader Larry Hall (D-Democratic) says Republican leaders violated procedural rules by not giving a 48-hour notice before voting on a veto override. 

He claims that Republicans voted today because of the number of absences. They "waited and waited and waited," he said, until they had an advantage. 

He says it was also wrong of them to use a legislative procedure to cut off debate.   

"They [constituents] sent me here to represent their interests, not just my own," he says. "And no member can tell me to forfeit the rights and interests of my constituents."

Republican leaders argue that the bill has already been debated extensively.

"We didn't have much debate today because it's a veto override, and that traditionally is very low amount of debate anyway," said House Speaker Tim Moore.

"Magistrates, as other judicial officials, should not be compelled to take any action that violates their conscience," he added. 

Democratic lawmakers and LGBTQ advocates argue that the bill legalizes discrimination and allows elected officials to pick and choose which of their job duties to perform for taxpayers.

Luke Largess, a Charlotte-based attorney, said if the bill became a law, "it will invite a new round of court challenges." Largess challenged North Carolina’s 2012 constitutional amendment that defined a marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

Charlie Shelton-Ormond is a podcast producer for WUNC.
Reema Khrais joined WUNC in 2013 to cover education in pre-kindergarten through high school. Previously, she won the prestigious Joan B. Kroc Fellowship. For the fellowship, she spent a year at NPR where she reported nationally, produced on Weekends on All Things Considered and edited on the digital desk. She also spent some time at New York Public Radio as an education reporter, covering the overhaul of vocational schools, the contentious closures of city schools and age-old high school rivalries.
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