Drew Reisinger, the Buncombe County Registrar of Deeds, has taken an important step towards challenging North Carolina’s constitutional ban on gay marriage. In a move inspired by the June 26th Supreme Court decision that struck down part of the Defense of Marriage Act, Reisinger began accepting marriage license applications from gay couples on Tuesday, October 15th. When asked by the press about his primary reason for accepting the applications, Reisinger said, “I have concerns about whether we are violating people's civil rights."
Reisinger now awaits a formal decision from North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper on whether or not he can sign those applications. Cooper has publicly expressed his own personal support for gay marriage but has also said that he will continue to defend the constitutional ban in court. Cooper has been named a defendant in a lawsuit that challenges the constitutionality of amendment one, which defines marriage as being only legal between a man and a woman.
The Charlotte Observer reported that, in his letter to Cooper informing him about his decision to accept the applications, Reisinger wrote, “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.”
Brenda Clark and Carol McCrory, who have been together for 25 years, were the first couple to file an application for marriage with Reisinger. They and the other 10 couples who applied were participating in the “We Do” campaign by The Campaign for Southern Equality, which encourages gay couples to apply for marriage licenses in towns across the state of North Carolina. Clark and McCrory had previously applied for, and been denied, marriage applications four previous times.
Clement Law Firm, Asheville, NC