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State Senate Committee Passes Anti-LGBT Religious Refusal Bill

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Raleigh, N.C. (February 24, 2015) – Equality NC, the state’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) advocacy organization, was present today as a state Senate committee approved a bill that would allow magistrates and registers of deeds to opt out of providing legal marriage services or issuing marriage licenses. The legislation is likely to head to a full hearing on the Senate floor on Wednesday, Feb. 25, at 9:30 a.m.

The legislation, Senate Bill 2, which would allow allow magistrates and registers of deeds to discriminate against couples with whom they do not agree, was heard this morning in the Senate Judiciary II Committee.

Speaking to the committee, Equality NC’s Executive Director Chris Sgro condemned the legislation as targeting LGBT North Carolinians. "This bill is a direct attack on our community," said Sgro. "History books will remember SB 2 no more favorably than an interracial couple being turned away 36 years ago."

CLICK HERE to read Sgro's full remarks from the Senate Judiciary II Committee >>

While the bill is largely directed toward discriminating against LGBT couples, in comments and debate on the bill on Monday morning, proponents admitted that it would also allow magistrates and registers of deeds to discriminate against interracial couples or couples having two different faiths. In 1977, two Forsyth County magistrates denied marriage services to interracial couple Thomas Roger Person and Carol Ann Figueroa. The couple successfully sued the magistrates in federal court.

Sarah Preston, policy director for the ACLU of North Carolina, told the committee, “This bill is clearly designed to deny gay and lesbian couples their legal right to marry, but it would also make it harder for all North Carolina couples, especially those living in smaller counties, to access their right to be married under the law.”

Sgro and Equality NC predict this bill is only a prelude to more broadly-written legislation, to be filed in the 2015 session by Rep. Paul "Skip" Stam (R-Wake), who has publicly vowed to push a religious refusal bill specifically targeting the LGBT community.

Equality NC has already fighting back against Stam’s suggested legislation, inviting their supporters to call and email legislators to demand they stop any legislation that would give state officials or others a “license to discriminate.” In addition, the statewide organization is calling on the governor to veto any religious refusal bill that comes across his desk.

During the 2015 session, Equality NC will also propose legislative updates to the state’s non-discrimination policies, in an effort to protect the state’s gay and transgender workers, who remain unprotected under North Carolina law.

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