The North Carolina House of Representatives today voted 69 to 41 to override GOP Governor Pat McCrory’s veto of Senate Bill 2 which allows magistrates and employees of county Registers of Deeds to opt out of performing any duties with respect to a same sex marriage if they cite a religious objection to doing so. The House joined the State Senate which had previously overriden the veto on a 32 to 16 vote. A vote of 3/5 of legislators present and voting is necessary to override a veto, so SB2 is now law.
Early this morning, GOP House members received a memo from the Speakers office asking them to be sure to be on time for the start of today’s session but not citing the reason. The veto override was first on the agenda, and a procedural move was made to limit debate, giving the Democrats only 3 minutes to present their objections.
”Today is a win for anyone who supports religious freedom,” crowed State Senator Ronald Rabin, one of the co-sponsors of the bill, while the ACLU called it ”a sad day for North Carolina”. Tami Fitzgerald, Executive Director of the NC Values Coalition which supported the bill and the override, observed that ”it is hard to believe that any governor – much less a conservative one – would veto a bill protecting the religious freedom of his constituents”.
When the controversy over Indiana and Arkansas adopting the Religious Freedom Restoration Act erupted, Governor McCrory and House Speaker Tim Moore both moderates, announced that they did not believe that a similar law was necessary in North Carolina. The more conservative Senate President, Phil Berger was open to a more far reaching religious freedom law, but to get it passed in both chambers, the Senate leadership restricted it to protecting the state and county employees involved in marriage duties. Berger was himself the principle sponsor of the bill. McCrory cited a desire that all government employees follow the law in vetoing the bill. Supporters were uncertain if the votes were there in the less conservative House to override the veto, but recent backlash among GOP activists against moderate Republican House members for voting for green energy subsidies and for passing a bill out of committee allowing drivers licenses for illegal aliens, seems to have made many House Republicans reluctant to cast another vote perceived by the GOP base as liberal. The conservative win at last weekend’s state GOP convention likely also had an influence on legislators.