Advocates target changing NC same-sex marriage ban

The Buncombe County
Register of Deeds says he's going to accept marriage license
applications from same-sex couples and seek an opinion from North
Carolina's top lawyer.

A 2012 amendment to North Carolina's
Constitution forbids same-sex couples from marrying. But Drew Reisinger
said Monday he will hold the licenses and then ask state Attorney
General Roy Cooper for legal advice.

“I am more than willing to
issue marriage licenses to same sex couples, but I want to have the
legal clarification of my attorney general Roy Cooper,” Reisinger told
The Associated Press.

He said he felt compelled to take action.

“I
was frustrated turning down marriage licenses from upstanding citizens
from my community again and again. I had a handful of friends come into
my office and request licenses and we had to deny them specifically
because of their sexual orientation. And I just didn't feel like it was
fair anymore,” Reisinger said.

“It reached a point where if we can legally grant marriage licenses to gay people, we would like to do that,” he said.

The initial word from the attorney general's office was that he cannot legally grant the licenses.

Noelle Talley, a spokeswoman for Cooper, said in a written statement “these marriage licenses cannot be issued.”

“This
is the law unless the Constitution is changed or the court says
otherwise. This very issue is the subject of pending litigation against
the State of North Carolina,” Talley said.

The Campaign for
Southern Equality has been going from county to county, trying to find
someone to issue marriage licenses for same-sex couples as part of its
“We Do” campaign.

Group spokesman Aaron Sarver said at least six
same-sex couples will show up Tuesday at the Register of Deeds office in
Asheville to request marriage licenses.

The Rev. Jasmine
Beach-Ferrara, executive director of the Campaign for Southern Equality,
praised Reisinger's action, calling it “another step forward in the
path to full equality for LGBT people.”

Reisinger's announcement
came hours after Cooper revealed he supports same-sex marriage. But
Cooper also said his personal views won't prevent him from defending
North Carolina's ban in court.

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 a U.S. Supreme Court
decision over the summer.

Thirteen states and the District of Columbia permit same-sex marriages.

This
is the second time the Campaign for Southern Equality has targeted
Asheville. The bohemian university town in western North Carolina has a
large gay and lesbian population.

Two years ago, a same-sex couple
was arrested after refusing to leave Reisinger's office when the pair
was turned down for a marriage license. The arrests followed a downtown
rally that drew about 300 people, where same-sex couples were blessed by
clergy members.

Reisinger recalled that protest, and said it was
now time to take action. He said he told the attorney general's office
last week he was planning to accept marriage licenses from same-sex
couples.

When same-sex couples arrive at his office Tuesday
morning, he said he will ask them to fill out the traditional forms,
then send those papers to the attorney general's office.

“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.

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