Under the Dome

Cooper would veto gay marriage bills

Attorney General Roy Cooper
Attorney General Roy Cooper cseward@newsobserver.com

Attorney General and unannounced Democratic candidate for governor Roy Cooper said Wednesday if he was the governor he would veto two pending bills related to gay marriage.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Cooper said he opposes legislation that would allow magistrates and court clerks to refuse to perform civil marriages if they object on religious grounds. The bill is in response to several North Carolina magistrates who quit rather than marry same-sex couples.

The other bill, to protect businesses from governmental edicts that conflict with their religious beliefs, is similar to the recent law in Indiana that led to widespread criticism.

"There are laws in place that protect religious liberties," Cooper said. "We don't need these laws that hurt people and our economy."

Cooper supports gay marriage. But as attorney general, he defended North Carolina’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage until last summer, when he said further legal efforts would be fruitless in light of a federal appeals court ruling.

The magistrates bill has passed the Senate but not the House. Identical bills protecting religious freedom have been filed in the House and Senate but not acted on yet.

Gov. Pat McCrory has said he opposes those bills, too, but he won’t say whether he would veto them or not.

In response to Cooper’s remarks to the AP, which also touched on his views on police body cameras, the economy and gas taxes, N.C. Republican Party spokesman Ricky Diaz released a statement.

"Our part time Attorney General is clearly running for governor, yet he will only take positions on issues when it is politically advantageous for him,” Diaz said. “He still continues to dodge the serious questions we've raised, like what his position is on the sales tax bill currently being debated in the legislature."