The Boob Patrol Strikes Again

by Jim Longworth

The North Carolina General Assembly never ceases to amaze me. This is the august body that in 2013 considered jail time an appropriate punishment for any woman who displayed her areola in public. The bill was proposed by a legislator who feared that wild women would overrun our State, displaying their naked breasts. But as I pointed out in my column at the time, areola can also refer to a pimple, which means every teenager in the State would be arrested if the bill was enacted. Cooler heads prevailed, and neither breastfeeding women nor teenagers with acne were sent to prison.

Unfortunately cooler heads do not always prevail in Raleigh. Last week the General Assembly once again distinguished itself when Senator Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore managed to successfully override Governor McCrory’s veto of a bill that effectively makes homosexuals second-class citizens. Senate bill SB2 says that magistrates can refuse to perform marriage ceremonies, and registers of deeds can refuse to issue marriage licenses, if their religious beliefs prevent them from doing so. How, you ask, did this absurd bill ever see the light of day?

Before the ink was dry on a federal court decision making gay marriage legal in North Carolina, a Wentworth magistrate, John Kallam, resigned in protest rather than face the unpleasant task of having to join two men or two women in matrimony. Kallam’s resignation was just the ammunition Berger needed to put a back door fly in the high court ruling’s ointment, by playing the religious freedom card. Even though 51 of 54 register of deeds polled were against the bill, SB2 passed with flying colors. But never fear. Governor McCrory had made it clear that he would abide by the court’s decision despite his personal opposition to same sex marriage. Further, the Governor was opposed to any civil servant shirking his or her duties for any reason. To his credit, McCrory stood up to bully Berger and his right wing, homophobe cronies, and issued a veto of SB2.

As expected, Berger and his Senate crusaders voted to override McCrory’s veto. But opponents of SB2 still had hope that the House override would fail. However, Speaker Moore, who controls the calendar, scheduled his override vote on a day when a number of pro-McCrory representatives were absent.

The Governor came up short by one vote, and SB2 became law. “It’s a disappointing day for the rule of law and the process of passing legislation in North Carolina,” said the Governor.

Indeed. Especially because Berger has been known to play hard ball, and we may never know if the Senator and Speaker Moore exerted pressure on the absent members to stay away from work so that the bill could pass. In any event, while Berger’s bill was aimed at discouraging gay marriage, he has effectively opened up a legal can of worms that could allow magistrates and registers of deeds to take a powder anytime they don’t approve of a particular couple. Don’t want to issue a license to a Black groom and a White bride? No problem. Don’t want to marry a Jew to a Catholic? That’s OK too. Don’t want to officiate for a Democrat bride and a Socialist groom? Just hide behind SB2.

Like Mr. Kallam, Swain County magistrate Gilbert Breedlove had also resigned in protest of the gay marriage law, but after last week’s successful override vote, he gloated to the Greensboro News & Record that now he can, “bring my morals and integrity to the position instead of checking it at the door.” The problem is that the lawmakers who voted for SB2 did check their morals at the door, then closed that door behind them in order to keep out anyone who doesn’t look, sound, or believe the way they do.

I really wish the General Assembly had stuck to regulating naked nipples, and stayed the hell out of the nuptials business. What a bunch of boobs. !

JIM LONGWORTH is the host of “Triad Today,” airing on Saturdays at 7:30 a.m. on ABC45 (cable channel 7) and Sundays at 11 a.m. on WMYV (cable channel 15).