ASHEVILLE — Buncombe Countys Register of Deeds accepted 11 marriage applications Tuesday morning from same-sex couples, then said he has asked for an opinion on the constitutionality of North Carolinas ban on such unions.
Register of Deeds Drew Reisinger said he is asking for a legal opinion from Attorney General Roy Cooper. Same-sex marriages are forbidden under state law, which was cemented in May 2012 by the passage of Amendment One.
Reisinger said Tuesday morning he is holding the 11 applications until he receives an opinion from Cooper.
Cooper, who recently said he supports same-sex marriage, said Monday his personal views wont prevent him from defending North Carolinas ban in court.
I understand the Attorney General will uphold state law, however I am not sure this is a black-and-white issue under state and federal law, Reisinger said Tuesday. Thats why I am asking for his interpretations as the chief legal adviser for our state.
The application for marriage licenses Tuesday in Buncombe County is part of an ongoing effort by the Campaign for Southern Equality, which earlier tried unsuccessfully to get licenses in Mecklenburg, Forsyth, Guilford, Henderson and Madison counties. Three couples asked for licenses in Mecklenburg County last Wednesday but were turned down.
The Campaign for Southern Equality says it will test the law again next month in Transylvania (Nov. 1), Cabarrus (Nov. 4) and Rowan (Nov. 22) counties.
In his letter to Cooper, Reisinger wrote, Why are we denying same-sex couples in North Carolina the dignity and the legal acknowledgment granted to heterosexual couples here or same-sex couples in other states?
He added, This strikes me as a violation of equal protection, as these sets of couples are treated very differently under the eyes of the state and federal government, without a clear rationale for this difference.
The Associated Press reported Monday that Noelle Talley, a spokeswoman for the Attorney Generals office, said these marriage licenses cannot be issued.
In a written statement to the AP, Talley said, This is the law, unless the Constitution is changed or the court system says otherwise. This very issue is the subject of pending litigation against the State of North Carolina.
We are hopeful that Attorney General Cooper will do the right thing and recognize our right to marry after 25 years in a committed relationship and having raised two kids together, said Brenda Clark, who with her partner Carol McCrory was among those seeking marriage licenses in Buncombe County. Clark and McCrory, who live in the Buncombe County town of Fairview, have been turned down in four previous requests for marriage licenses.
A recent Elon University poll showed 68 percent of voters under the age of 30 support marriage rights for same-sex couples. But Amendment One, which forbid such marriages, passed by a margin of 61 percent to 39 percent.
When Cooper opposed passage of the May 2012 amendment prohibiting same-sex marriages, which passed by a comfortable margin, he spoke mostly about the lack of clarity in its language. He had never addressed publicly his views on the issue itself.
But when asked over the weekend by The Associated Press whether hed like to see the amendment repealed or a law passed to sanction same-sex marriage, Cooper said: I support marriage equality.
His announcement worries social conservative groups that supported the amendments passage but arent sure that Cooper will robustly defend the state in court. They are particularly unhappy with Cooper for agreeing to speak at next months annual fundraiser for the gay-rights organization Equality North Carolina. While not a plaintiff in the lawsuit, Equality NC lobbies for expanding rights for gays and lesbians.
Coopers planned Nov. 9 speech draws into serious question the intent of the attorney general with respect to the lawsuit, North Carolina Family Policy Council executive director John Rustin said Monday.
Cooper, a Democrat who is laying the groundwork for a bid for governor in 2016, told the AP he speaks with many diverse groups all over North Carolina about issues facing this state, and this is no different. Equality NC leaders asked him to speak, Cooper added.
Equality NC executive director Chris Sgro was ecstatic hearing of Coopers personal support for expanding marriage to include same-sex couples, which is now granted in 13 states and the District of Columbia.
Bob Stephens, general counsel for Gov. Pat McCrory told reporters two weeks ago that Coopers strong personal opposition to the elections law compromised his ability to represent the state of North Carolina. Cooper said he can set aside his personal views to carry out his constitutional duties as the states top lawyer.
ASSOCIATED PRESS WRITER GARY D. ROBERTSON CONTRIBUTED.
Read more here: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2013/10/14/4388677/advocates-target-changing-nc-same.html#.Ul1jVFDrwjg#storylink=cpy