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Jan 28, 2015

Equality NC Condemns Proposed "Religious Refusal" Legislation

RALEIGH, N.C. (January 28, 2015) -- Equality NC, North Carolina’s largest LGBT advocacy organization, joined legislators to condemn so-called "religious freedom" legislation filed Wednesday that would sanction and promote discrimination against North Carolina's LGBT population.

Senate Bill 2, sponsored by Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger (R-Guilford, Rockingham), would allow magistrates and other state employees to recuse themselves based on their religious beliefs from offering lawful marriage licenses to North Carolina couples.

Chris Sgro, executive director of Equality NC, said the bill would essentially legalize discrimination against the state's same-sex couples, who gained the freedom to marry in October 2014.

"With this discriminatory bill, and the possibility of others promised in the coming days, North Carolina's leaders have officially launched their efforts to dress up anti-LGBT discrimination by calling it "religious freedom," said Sgro. "While the bill does not expressly mention the LGBT community and its same-sex couples, we've seen this cynical tactic play out in many parts of the country in many different ways. Now these leaders are bringing this divisive debate to our state where North Carolina's true values of fairness and equality are under attack."

Sgro anticipates similar legislation to be filed by Rep. Paul "Skip" Stam (R-Wake), who recently vowed to drop his own religious refusal bill targeting the LGBT community.

Sgro added, "In the wake of threats from our state's most extreme anti-LGBT leaders, we ask our supporters to join us right now as we prepare to fight this, and any attacks on LGBT North Carolinians, during this legislative session."

Equality NC joined legislative leaders at a press conference immediately preceding the announcement of the Wednesday bill from Sen. Berger, to preview and decry this and any other legislation that would explicitly permit state officials to discriminate against couples and decline to perform their duties under North Carolina law.

Sen. Jeff Jackson (D-Mecklenburg) decried the suggested legislation, saying "Government offices that are open to the public must be open to everyone, including gays and lesbians."

Freshman Sen. Erica Smith-Ingram (D-Bertie, Chowan, Edgecombe, Hertford, Martin, Northampton, Tyrrell, Washington), also an ordained minister, questioned the intent of the legislation. "I am an ardent defender of religious freedom, but this is not about religious freedom," said Smith-Ingram.

Rep. Grier Martin (D-Wake) likened the bill to discriminatory legislation of old, adding, "we have tried separate but equal, it did not work then and it does not work now."

Equality NC is asking all North Carolinians to encourage their legislators and Gov. Pat McCrory to speak out against this discriminatory legislation.

"We want to make sure we protect not only the LGBT community but also North Carolina’s reputation as a place welcoming to all," said Sgro.

CLICK HERE to contact your legislators about this legislation.

CLICK HERE to contact your governor about this legislation.

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