Same-sex marriage effort moves Monday to Cabarrus

slyttle@charlotteobserver.comNovember 3, 2013 

A three-month fight against North Carolina’s ban on same-sex marriage will move Monday to Concord, where a group of social activists will make its eighth attempt this year to get a marriage license for a same-sex couple.

The previous attempts, including one Oct. 9 in Mecklenburg County, failed.

The Campaign for Southern Equality, which is organizing the test of North Carolina’s statute, says it will try this time in Cabarrus County.

Most of the previous efforts ended with a courteous refusal from the register of deeds in the various counties where the ban was tested. J. David Granberry, Mecklenburg’s register of deeds, told three same-sex couples who applied for a license last month that he understood their interest in getting a license but said he had to follow state law.

One exception was in Buncombe County, where Register of Deeds Drew Reisinger accepted the applications from same-sex couples. He did not grant licenses, however, instead asking state Attorney General Roy Cooper for a ruling. Cooper has said he supports same-sex marriage but is determined to uphold state law.

Earlier this year, county officials in New Mexico and Pennsylvania granted marriage licenses to same-sex couples, and some of those opposed to the marriages say they believe the Campaign for Southern Equality is hoping to find an official somewhere in North Carolina who is willing to follow suit.

Tami Fitzgerald of the N.C. Values Coalition told The Associated Press in September that she believes the effort is a stealth attempt to overcome the results of Amendment One, a ballot proposition in May 2012 that defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman. That issue passed with support from 61 percent of the electorate.

“What they’re encouraging registers of deed to do is to actually break the law,” Fitzgerald told the AP. “They couldn’t win at the ballot, and now they’re trying to win by inciting lawlessness, which ultimately leads to anarchy.”

M. Wayne Nixon, who was appointed Cabarrus County’s Register of Deeds in February, couldn’t be reached for comment Sunday.

The Campaign for Southern Equality says Cabarrus County residents Jean Raley and Terry Dennis will visit the Register of Deeds Office in Concord at 11 a.m. and seek a marriage certificate.

The group’s effort to test the law began in August in Madison County. Since then, the group has failed in Forsyth, Guilford, Henderson, Mecklenburg, Buncombe and Transylvania counties.

“Amendment One is immoral, unconstitutional and harmful to real people across North Carolina,” said the Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, executive director of the Campaign for Southern Equality. “Jean and Terry will request a marriage license because they have a fundamental right to marry.

“In this spirit, we pray the Cabarrus County Register of Deeds Office will choose to issue them a license.”

The organization has one more effort planned this calendar year, on Nov. 22 in Rowan County.

Lyttle: 704-358-6107; Twitter: @slyttle

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