This morning Buncombe County Register of Deeds Drew Reisinger became the first in the South to accept same-sex marriage licenses, as 10 couples requested them as part of an effort organized by the Campaign for Southern Equality.
About 80 people turned out for the event, holding "We Do" signs. This is not the first time the group has come to Reisinger's office requesting marriage licenses: the first couple, Brenda Clark and Carol McCrory, had unsuccessfully tried to register for a marriage license four times before as part of CSE protests. Since 2011, the Asheville-based LGBT rights organization has organized a series of protests across the Southeast, seeking the overturn of all bans on same-sex marriage.
This time, however, instead of regretfully refusing the application (Reisinger's on record supporting same-sex marriage rights) as he had during previous protests, he accepted the documents, just asking them to verify that the information on the form was correct.
However, he stopped short of signing and issuing the marriage licenses, saying that while he believes the state ban on same-sex marriage is in conflict with the U.S. Constitution, he will formally request that Attorney General Roy Cooper allow the marriages to proceed.
"It seems that y'all qualify for every reason under the law except your sexual orientation," Reisinger said. "I took an oath to uphold North Carolina's constitution, I also took an oath to uphold the United States Constitution, which demands equal rights for all people. My hope is that he [Cooper] will allow me permission to grant you this license. For now we'll hold onto this license until we can get the attorney general's approval."
Clark thanked Reisinger, said they were there as a "visible face for this movement" and "we have confidence that eventually everyone will do the right thing."
However, while Cooper announced his support for equal marriage rights last week, he has said he's still committed to defending the state ban in court as part of his official duties. His office issued a statement yesterday saying it doesn't feel that issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples is constitutional.
Asked about his reaction to Cooper's statement, Reisinger said, "It is my hope he will reconsider his stance on this." In a statement issued yesterday, he noted that after this summer's Supreme Court ruling striking down a major part of federal prohibitions on the recognition of same-sex marriage, he's concerned that refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples is a violation of their civil rights.
A number of local elected officials turned out to show their support, including state Rep. Susan Fisher, Buncombe County Board of Commissioners Chair David Gantt, Commissioner Ellen Frost, and Asheville City Council members Gordon Smith and Cecil Bothwell.
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