Hey New York Times: Is North Carolina law really about 'curtailing same-sex unions,' or is religious freedom the issue?

The New York Times reports that North Carolina lawmakers passed a measure Thursday "aimed at curtailing same-sex unions."

Here's my pesky question for the Times: Can you provide any facts — any facts at all — to back up that claim?

Or is this new state law — as the supporters claim — about protecting religious freedom?:

To give a little background, you'll recall that the Times previously ventured down to North Carolina and provided mediocre coverage on what it labeled "so-called religious freedom bills":

This is the lede on the latest story:

DURHAM, N.C. — Defying the governor, lawmakers on Thursday enacted a law that allows state court officials to refuse to perform a marriage if they have a “sincerely held religious objection,” a measure aimed at curtailing same-sex unions.

Later in the piece, the Times pontificates on the measure and North Carolina politics:

The measure is one of a string of bills in states like Indiana, Arkansas and Louisiana to allow people to circumvent equal protection for same-sex couples on grounds of religious freedom. It is also part of a series of sharply conservative bills passed by North Carolina’s Republican-controlled legislature, including a bill signed last Friday by the governor that requires women who seek abortions to wait 72 hours before they can undergo the procedure.
North Carolina politics are often pulled between urban and college-town progressives and suburban, rural and military-town conservatives. The issue of same-sex marriage has swerved back and forth in recent years. In 2012, the voters approved an amendment to the state Constitution banning same-sex marriage. Two years later, a federal judge in Asheville, N.C., struck down the amendment.

But back to the pesky question: How is this measure "aimed at curtailing same-sex unions?" The Times fails to provide any facts — any facts at all — to back up that claim.

Moreover, the Times neglects to point out that the law requires counties to provide services for all legal marriages, even if a particular official opts out for religious reasons. 

Unlike the Times, Reuters' news story reflects that crucial detail:

North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore said in a statement after the vote that the law “protects sincerely held religious beliefs while also ensuring that magistrates are available in all jurisdictions to perform lawful marriages.”

The Raleigh News & Observer offers more details:

Republican supporters said they stood up for religious freedom and they noted the law requires that county officials must provide marriage services for all at least 10 hours per week over at least three business days.
The law was written and backed by the leader of the state Senate, Phil Berger, an Eden Republican, who had said it was a necessary response to court rulings last year that allowed same-sex marriage and then administrative decisions that punished county magistrates who refused to perform them.

At a rally last year, Berger said the state was obligated to abide by a federal court decision allowing same-sex marriage:

While pledging to fight that ruling, Berger said:

"However, unless and until these rulings are reversed, I will do all that I can to ensure that expanding the freedoms of some does not infringe on the constitutionally protected rights of others."

In other words, Berger believes the state can balance the rights of same-sex couples and magistrates who have religious objections to gay marriage. Disagreements between Berger and others — including the governor — over that contention should be fully and fairly vetted by journalists, including those who work for the Times.

But if the Times is going to present as a fact the notion that the measure is "aimed at curtailing same-sex unions" — as opposed to protecting the religious freedom of certain officials — then it needs to do much less pontificating and much more actual reporting.

North Carolina Capitol image via Shutterstock

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