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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, October 18 2013 - Volume 41 Issue 42
NC official issues same-sex marriage licenses
Section One
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NC official issues same-sex marriage licenses

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Drew Reisinger, the register of deeds in Buncombe County, North Carolina, issued marriage licenses to 10 same-sex couples on October 16.

Reisinger, who had previously announced he would issue the licenses, said he was withholding his signature on the documents pending a ruling by North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper. Reisinger says he believes his state's ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional, and if Cooper agrees, he will sign the licenses and the couples can get married.

'I will let each couple know that it is my hope to grant them a license, but I need to seek the North Carolina Attorney General's approval,' Reisinger said. 'I have concerns about whether we are violating people's civil rights based on this summer's Supreme Court decision.'

Cooper made headlines on October 14 when he revealed he supports marriage equality, but he added that in his official capacity he felt bound to defend state law in court. North Carolina voters passed a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in 2012.

Cooper is named as a defendant and is the state's lead designated attorney in a lawsuit filed by several same-sex couples that was recently expanded to challenge the constitutionality of the amendment in light of the U.S. Supreme Court's June decision striking down a key provision of the Defense of Marriage Act.

Reisinger recalled a protest two years ago when a same-sex couple was arrested in his office after asking for a marriage license and being refused. The arrests followed a downtown rally that drew about 300 people, where same-sex couples were blessed by supportive clergy.

Now he felt it was time to take action, he said, but he added that he would abide by the attorney general's ruling.

'If the attorney general says he will not allow me to issue marriage licenses, then I will respect the law of the land. But if he grants me permission to issue these marriage licenses, I will be excited to be the first in the South to make that happen,' he said.

TEST CASE
The Campaign for Southern Equality, an LGBT rights organization, had been shopping around for a county official who would be willing to issue marriage licenses for same-sex couples as part of its 'We Do' campaign.

The Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, the campaign's executive director and a minister in the United Church of Christ, called Reisinger's action 'another step forward in the path to full equality for LGBT people.'

Before the 10 couples applied to Reisinger for marriage licenses, Beach-Ferrara and 100 supporters gathered in an Asheville, North Carolina, church to encourage them.

Beach-Ferrara said they will keep pressing the issue. She called the state's ban on same-sex marriage 'morally wrong.'

'You can only deal with this for so long. It wears on your soul. It wears on your spirit, and it's wrong,' she said.

The first couple to apply for a license from Reisinger were Brenda Clark and Carol McCrory, who have been together for 25 years. Reisinger congratulated them and then told them he would have to ask the attorney general for permission before signing their license.

'I think it's pretty clear that there is a contradiction between state law and federal law, and we want some clarification,' Reisinger said.

McCrory praised Reisinger for his courage in accepting their marriage license request. 'I'm very proud of you,' she said.

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