Gov. Pat McCrory recently took perhaps his strongest stand in two and a half years as governor, pitting himself against social conservatives everywhere when he announced his veto of a controversial piece of legislation passed by the Republican-controlled General Assembly.
He vetoed Senate Bill 2, which would give state-employed magistrates the ability to opt out of performing same-sex marriages, which are currently legal in North Carolina, if their religious beliefs don’t agree with that. It also would allow employees of registers of deeds offices across the state to opt out of issuing marriage licenses for the same reason.
Here’s what McCrory said upon vetoing Senate Bill 2: “I recognize that for many North Carolinians, including myself, opinions on same-sex marriage come from sincerely held religious beliefs that marriage is between a man and a woman. However, 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.”
Here’s what I think McCrory also implied, but didn’t actually say in his veto message: “I didn’t come to Raleigh to get mired in divisive social issues like abortion and same-sex marriage. I know the religious right in the Republican Party won’t like this action, but I want my gubernatorial legacy to be about improving transportation and state buildings and creating jobs. So far, the General Assembly is balking at my idea for bond referendums for those purposes. I know I say it often, but I greatly admired President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who supported the construction of the interstate highway system.
“State legislators also haven’t responded to my administration’s very frequent calls for additional tools to help with job recruitment and economic development, such as a historic-preservation tax credit and more money for our best job-recruiting program, JDIG. I could name others, but you get the point. I don’t want to lose another automaker like Volvo to South Carolina because the Legislature refuses to pass an economic incentives package that can help us compete with neighboring states.
“I didn’t come to Raleigh to get pushed around – or ignored – by the Legislature. I’m fed up with that.
“I know the Republican state convention is coming up (June 5-7 in Raleigh), and Republicans want to pass conservative bills to excite the faithful before that. I know I might not be the most popular man at the convention because of the veto, but I also don’t think most of the state’s Republicans are as far right on the political spectrum as the people who show up at the convention.
“I believe – or at least I hope – my veto of Senate Bill 2 won’t hurt me politically. I don’t know of any credible GOP primary challenger at this point, and moderates from both parties are likely to support me in this. I’m simply doing my job as governor, checking and balancing the power of the General Assembly when I think it’s wrong.
“My veto stamp is warmed up. Legislators must stop ignoring the issues my administration believes are important, or get ready for more ink. I have a job to do, and the General Assembly isn’t making it easy.”
Patrick Gannon writes about state government and politics.