Court officials in North Carolina will be able to opt out of performing same-sex marriages under a new law that came into force last week.
Both the state Senate and the state House voted to override Governor Pat McCrory’s veto of the Bill.
The legislation was put forward after several Christian magistrates resigned their posts in October last year when same-sex marriage was legalised in the state.
Give up rights
The new legislation allows court officials who have a “sincerely held religious objection” to exempt themselves from all wedding ceremonies (homosexual and heterosexual) without being prosecuted for failing to perform the duties imposed on them by law.
The new law also gives employment benefits back to magistrates who resigned over the issue last year, and who are reappointed to the position within 90 days of the act coming into force.
Senate leader Phil Berger said earlier this month: “Just because someone takes a job with the government does not mean they give up their first amendment rights”.
Sincerely held beliefs
House Speaker Tim Moore said in a statement that the legislation “protects sincerely held religious beliefs while also ensuring that magistrates are available in all jurisdictions to perform lawful marriages”.
In 2012, voters in the state approved a constitutional amendment which defines marriage solely as a union between a man and a woman.
But last year, same-sex marriage was introduced in North Carolina after a federal appeals court overturned the constitutional amendment. The US Supreme Court is expected to finally decide on the matter in the next few weeks.