The North Carolina legislature voted Thursday to override a Republican governor's veto of a "religious freedom" bill that could place sweeping restrictions for same-sex couples who hope to wed.
The showdown over Senate Bill 2 came to a dramatic end in a 69-41 vote, overcoming Republican Gov. Pat McCrory's veto from late last month.
The measure would allow government officials to cite “sincerely held” religious beliefs as a reason to not participate in same-sex marriages in the state. Magistrates and registers of deeds must formally opt-out in writing —making them exempt from performing marriage duties for six months.
Critics of the measure fear that limiting the number of government workers able to carry out marriages could impose significant delays for same-sex couples looking to marry, particularly in rural regions of the state where there are few people able to perform those duties.
McCrory vetoed the legislation last month, insisting that though he personally opposed same-sex marriage and believes the institution must be between a man and a women, he was against the measure because "we are a nation and a state of laws."
"Whether it is the president, governor, mayor, a law enforcement officer, or magistrate, 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," he said in a statement.
The Republican-led state Senate had already voted to override McCrory's veto last week, setting up a showdown in the House after lawmakers were forced to pull a scheduled vote to do the same, likely to whip additional support. But on Thursday, legislators who championed the bill garnered support from three-fifths of lawmakers present to ultimately put the legislation on the books.
The measure is just the latest in a Republican-led charge to incorporate "religious freedom" bills, which are viewed by critics as a means to undermine marriage equality in deep-red states. Republican leaders however have seen backlash to similar measures — a "religious freedom" bill in Indiana stoked a firestorm this April after activists, state leaders and businesses nationwide arranged boycotts, viewing the legislation as discriminatory. A different "religious freedom" bill in North Carolina saw a similar fate earlier this year and was killed by opposition from major businesses.