Marriage exemption brings hidden risks

Gov. Pat McCrory
Gov. Pat McCrory

From an editorial in the Fayetteville Observer Monday:

The N.C. House scrambled all last week to find enough votes to override Gov. Pat McCrory’s veto of a measure that lets some officials opt out of any role in same-sex marriages.

The Republican majority in the House appears split over the issue, which would allow magistrates and some employees in register of deeds offices to exempt themselves from officiating at marriages, or even doing the paperwork for granting marriage licenses.

The core issue is constitutional: If these officials swear to uphold the Constitution, how can we let them opt out of a duty to do something the courts have ruled is constitutional?

But for register of deeds staffs, it’s a bigger issue.

Especially in small offices, it may make it impossible for the office to perform its marriage-license issuing and filing responsibilities.

Harnett Republican David Lewis, the Rules Committee chair, said, “Frankly, some of our members are on the fence and are seeking legal counsel to ask certain questions. I think they will get those answers and be able to make a vote based on their own conscience, their own heart.” We hope they consult their local registers of deeds, too, as well as the Constitution. Unintended consequences abound.