Carrboro couple sign registry to protest gay marriage ban

Staff WriterMarch 4, 2011 

— Alicia Stemper's 75-year-old father took pictures Thursday as she and Carrboro Alderwoman Lydia Lavelle became the 39th couple to sign the town's domestic partnership registry

The women have been together since 2003, and they held a commitment ceremony in front of their families and friends several years ago. They took the largely symbolic step of registering their union with the town, in part, to protest a push for legislation that would ban such unions in North Carolina.

Stemper, an investigator for the state capital defender's office, got teary-eyed several times as she read a statement in Town Hall after the pair signed the registration form.

"Those introducing the bill call it 'defense of marriage,' but that is a misnomer," Stemper said. "They are not looking to defend marriage, which would imply marriage is being threatened.

"Instead they are looking to exclude gay and lesbian citizens from having the same protections, the same responsibilities, the same recognition, and the same benefits that heterosexual couples enjoy. ... We feel this anti-gay bill is wrong."

The bill before the General Assembly, Senate Bill 106, would amend the state constitution to state that marriage between a man and a woman is the "only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized by the state." Voters would be asked to approve the measure in an Election Day referendum in 2012.

"It's not just against same-sex marriage," said Lavelle, an assistant professor at the N.C. Central University School of Law. "It's against any legal recognition of unions of persons of the same gender."

Carrboro and Chapel Hill are the only towns in North Carolina that have domestic partnership registries. Asheville is creating one.

Stemper's father, Jack, of Clemmons, said a neighbor who did not know his daughter is a lesbian remarked recently that gay people should not be teachers or coaches. He told the neighbor he should be so lucky to have his children taught by women like his daughter and her partner.

"I don't know why people have to get involved in it, frankly," Jack Stemper said of the legislation. "It seems to me people should be able to do what they want in this area of their lives."

mark.schultz@newsobserver.com or 919-932-2003