RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- Gay marriage is front and center on this year's first real work day at the North Carolina General Assembly.

Senate leader Phil Berger filed a bill Wednesday that would allow magistrates to refuse to preside at same-sex weddings and assistant registers of deeds to not issue licenses based on religious convictions. But they wouldn't be involved in traditional marriages either.

Berger had said he'd file a recusal bill after judges last October struck down North Carolina's constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.

Berger told The Associated Press in an interview the exemption to preside at all marriages ensures court officials aren't picking and choosing whom they will wed.

Democratic lawmakers and the gay-rights group Equality North Carolina held a news conference Wednesday opposing the bill, saying it's discrimination in disguise.