by Bob Geary
Singing "One Step Closer Now, Love Won't Be Denied," same-sex couples who were married in other states marched with supporters to the Wake County Register of Deeds office this morning to have their marital status recorded, if not yet legally recognized by the state of North Carolina.
Nine couples paid the $26 fee, and courteous clerks in the Register of Deeds office duly accepted their marriage licenses to be put on file in Wake. The clerks listened attentively, but without responding, as applicants thanked them and expressed the hope that, before too long, North Carolina will issue, as well as record, licenses for same-sex partners to be married.
The ceremonial filings came on the two-year anniversary date of Amendment One, the anti-LGBT amendment which was approved by the voters of North Carolina on May 8, 2012.
Which, frankly, seems like ancient history to me, given all that's occurred to move LGBT equality forward in this country in the last two years.
But I know it doesn't feel ancient history to LGBT folks who continue to be discriminated against in North Carolina despite the ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court in the Windsor case and the progress in many other states before and since Windsor.
Amendment One, an add-on to the state constitution, bars same-sex couples from being legally married in North Carolina and, if they were married in another state or DC, having their marriages recognized in North Carolina.
The anniversary date reminds us that the Republican sponsors of Amendment One put it to public referendum during a primary election in 2012, not a general election — and it was a primary election dominated by a concurrent Republican presidential primary that day. So, we lost, those of us who support equality for LGBT folks. But you know what, we've been winning every day since.
State bans on same-sex marriage are being struck down by federal courts all over the country, though not North Carolina's as yet. (Here's a summary of the ACLU-NC court case.) These rulings are no doubt heading for a final resolution in the Supreme Court.
Thus, Wake's Register of Deeds Laura Riddick was correct to say, when same-sex couples appeared at her door today, that state law tells her what to do: "Registers of Deeds can record out-of-state marriage licenses on request, as North Carolina law requires," Riddick said in a statement. "We also reject applications for same-sex marriage licenses, as North Carolina law also requires."
As the Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara pointed out today, there's no county residency requirement in North Carolina. Couples living anywhere in the state can apply for a marriage license from Orange County — or any county.
Beach-Ferrara is executive director of the Campaign for Southern Equality, which organized today's event. "This is how things are changing," she told the marchers today, "because we keep showing up at the counters again and again."