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North Carolina legislators and a magistrate who won't issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples want to formally defend a religious exemption law challenged as discriminatory

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RALEIGH, North Carolina — North Carolina legislators and a magistrate who won't issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples are asking a federal court to let them defend a religious exemption law challenged as discriminatory.

State Senate leader Phil Berger, House Speaker Tim Moore and Alexander County Magistrate Brenda Bumgarner filed motions this week to intervene in the case. The state was the only named defendant in the December lawsuit.

The three say they can't trust Attorney General Roy Cooper's office to defend the state adequately because of his public, personal opposition to the law. Magistrates and other court officials with a "sincerely held religious exemption" can refuse to participate in all marriages.

Cooper's office says its lawyers always diligently represent the state, and it's a waste of taxpayer money to hire other lawyers.

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