At the North Carolina State Legislature, Senate Leader Phil Berger introduced a bill Wednesday that would allow magistrates across North Carolina to opt-out of performing same-sex marriages. He wants government officials such as magistrates and registers of deeds, who object to same-sex marriage, to receive protection.
"The issue came up in my district. It’s come up in several other districts. There have been a number of magistrates who have either felt like they were forced to resign, or have left because of this issue," said Berger, the Senate Pro-Tem. He added the bill is, "narrowly tailored to deal with this specific issue."
Under the measure, magistrates who recuse themselves from same-sex marriage ceremonies would not face any penalty.
"It impacts the long-held understanding in this country that we respect people’s religious beliefs and that we accommodate strongly held religious beliefs," Berger explained.
Nearly three dozen states have proposed or enacted similar measures.
A group of Democrats held a press conference at the same time the bill was being filed.
"If you allow an official who is sworn to uphold the Constitution to determine what laws they want to uphold or don’t want to uphold based on personal beliefs, it’s an incredible assault and destruction of the rule of law," said Representative Rick Glazier (D-Cumberland).
"The system that would result creates a door at the magistrate’s office for straight couples and a door at the magistrate’s office for gay couples. We have tried separate but equal in this country before. It did not work then and it will not work now," said Rep. Grier Martin (D-Wake).
Same-sex marriage has been legal in the state since October following a federal court ruling.