Justice

North Carolina Just Made Getting Married A Lot Harder For Gay Couples

Court clerks in North Carolina can now refuse to marry and issue marriage licenses for same-sex couples if clerks claim a “sincerely held religious objection,” according to a law enacted Thursday. The measure is one of several recent pieces of legislation in the U.S. that targets same-sex couples, including a Michigan law passed that enables private adoption services to refuse children to same-sex couples on religious grounds.

These laws echo the controversial religious freedom legislation in Indiana and Arkansas that would have allowed businesses to refuse service to same-sex couples, citing religious objections just like the legislation in North Carolina and Michigan. Indiana was ultimately were forced to pass revisions following nationwide outcry and negative reactions from major public figures. After the controversy in Indiana, Arkansas did not pursue a similar proposal.

Lawmakers defied Gov. Pat McCrory (R) and overrode his previous veto of the measure, according to the New York Times.

The governor spoke out against the move, calling it a “disappointing day for the rule of law and the process of passing legislation in North Carolina,” McCrory said in a statement. And although he's not a supporter of gay marriage, he said "no public official who voluntarily swears to support and defend the Constitution and to discharge all duties of their office should be exempt from upholding that oath."

Under the law, a clerk can wait until a same-sex couple arrives at his or her office before opting out of performing the marriage, Slate reports. If a clerk does claim the religious objection, they are automatically suspended from performing any marriages for six months -- what could be a long time for court houses and could impact staffing and customer service, too, Drew Reisinger, Register of Deeds, told ABC11 in Raleigh, N.C.

Equality North Carolina, a group working to promote marriage equality in the state, says the law targets the LGBT community there and gives magistrates the license to discriminate.

Here's what people said on Twitter:

Gay marriage activists and Democrats in North Carolina plan to challenge the law in court.