North Carolina law lets officials refuse to perform gay marriages

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A law passed Thursday in North Carolina allows state magistrates and other employees who register and solemnize marriage licenses to stop performing all marriages—gay and straight—if they have a “sincerely held religious objection.”

The law went into effect after the state House voted to override Republican Gov. Pat McCrory's veto Thursday (the Senate had already voted to override).

The bill could increase wait times for marriage licenses across the state: If too many employees in any one county opt out, higher level elected officials would take up issuing licenses. Of the state's 100 counties, 45 have three or fewer full-time employees in the register of deeds' office aside from the elected official, the Winston-Salem Journal reports.


"In a rural county that has only two or three employees, it will be problematic," Drew Reisinger, Buncombe County's register of deeds, told the Journal. "It is a very real scenario."

Equality NC, a pro-same sex marriage group, said it planned to challenge the law in court.

"We're not just going to be silent on this," Jonah Hermann, a spokesperson for the group, told Fusion. "North Carolina is on the wrong side of history once again with this bill."

North Carolina is only the latest state to put up hurdles between gay couples and marriage rights since a wave of court decisions legalized same-sex marriage in states across the country in the last two years. Utah has also passed a law allowing officials to refuse to perform gay marriages. Also on Thursday, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder signed a law allowing faith-based adoption agencies to refuse adoptions to gay couples if doing so would violate their religious beliefs.


Meanwhile, the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to release its ruling on same sex marriages within the next few weeks.

Casey Tolan is a National News Reporter for Fusion based in New York City.

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