he North Carolina state Senate voted on Wednesday to allow government officials to refuse to marry same-sex couples without fear of being fired, adding a new twist to the gay marriage debate in a region where such unions have faced strong opposition.
North Carolina, which began allowing gay marriages last year to comply with a federal court order, had banned same-sex matrimony in a 2012 referendum. It is among 37 states where gay marriage is legal.
The U.S. Supreme Court last month agreed to decide whether states can ban gay marriage in a ruling that will determine whether 13 remaining state bans will be struck down.
In North Carolina, some of the civil officers who perform marriages, known as magistrates, threatened to resign rather than perform unions that ran counter to their religious beliefs.
While the bill does not mention gay marriage explicitly, it allows employees to recuse themselves from performing marriages by citing a “sincerely held religious objection.”
After submitting their objections in writing, magistrates would be barred from performing any marriage for six months or until they removed their objections.
Senate leader Phil Berger, the Republican who sponsored the bill, cited a case in his home county in which a magistrate was forced to resign over his refusal to perform gay marriages.
Berger said the bill will allow the state to comply with the law while preserving religious freedom.
“While the courts have taken steps to provide special rights to some, we must not ignore the constitutionally protected rights of others,” Berger said in a statement after the bill passed.
Supporters of gay marriage condemned the legislation, drawing parallels to officials’ past reluctance to perform bi-racial marriages.
“This discriminatory bill treats gay and lesbian couples as second-class citizens and distorts the true meaning of religious freedom,” Reverend Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, director of the Campaign for Southern Equality, said in a statement.
The bill, which also applies to the registers of deeds who issue marriage certificates, would require local governments to ensure that eligible couples are not denied the right to marry.
The bill passed the Republican-controlled Senate by a 32-16 vote and heads next to the Republican-controlled state House, where final action on the bill could come as early as Friday.
Delayed transition now causing problems in FBI getting permanent clearance for Biden’s national security
President-elect Joe Biden has announced that the delayed transition isn't a problem and that he and his team will ultimately be fine. But experts have questioned how it couldn't be an inconvenience that would lead to problems for incoming national security and public health officials, The Atlantic reported Monday.
Biden has worked to raise money for the transition, telling supporters that since they don't have access to the funds for incoming presidents, that they need donations to make it.
Proud Boy goes viral for saying ‘I’m kinda dumb’ as he is confronted over ‘Right Wing Death Squad’ patch
During a protest in Denver, Colorado over the weekend, a member of the far-right group Proud Boys was questioned by protesters about his ideology. At one moment, the man seemed to have a moment of self-reflection.
"Hey, look -- honest to God, I'm kinda dumb," the man says in a video that was uploaded to Twitter by "street reporter" Vixxy Vyohr.
"You're not dumb," a woman off camera says, seemingly taking a sympathetic stance towards the man.
"I am kinda the dumb," the man continues. "I don't really research much, I kinda just live by the knee-jerk, you know?"
Supreme Court declines to take action on Trump’s Pennsylvania appeal prior to certification of Biden win
The Supreme Court of the United States on Monday took no action to overturn a lower court decision that allowed the counting of late-arriving mail-in ballots in Pennsylvania.
President Donald Trump's campaign had sought to exclude mail-in ballots that arrived after election day.
In 4-4 decision in October, the high court upheld the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's ruling that said ballots postmarked by election day can arrive up to three days after the election.
The court later handed the Trump campaign a victory with an order saying that late-arriving ballots must be segregated before being counted.