United Church of Christ minister the Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara has taken the Campaign for Southern Equality into her home state of North Carolina as the latest step in the quest for marriage equality in the South. The WE DO Campaign, an initiative of the Campaign for Southern Equality (CSE), visited Madison County, N.C., on Wednesday, Aug. 21, to stand with same-sex couples as they asked their local register of deeds to issue a marriage license as an act of conscience.
Through the WE DO campaign more than 80 same-sex couples have requested marriage licenses in their hometowns across seven Southern states. All of those couples were denied, with local elected officials citing bans on same-sex marriage that exist in every Southern state as the reason.
The Campaign for Southern Equality is a national effort to assert the full humanity and equality of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in American life and to increase public support for LGBT rights.
"Amendment One, which bans same-sex marriage [in North Carolina], is immoral and unconstitutional," said Beach-Ferrara, executive director of the Campaign for Southern Equality. "In our country, there is a long history of citizens and elected officials standing up to discriminatory laws and, in this spirit, we are hopeful that the Madison County Register of Deeds will issue a marriage license to Amanda (Hilty) and Loraine (Allen)."
Amanda Hilty and Loraine Allen of Madison County requested a marriage license from the county office on Aug. 21, hoping to have their 13-year relationship recognized by their community and government. Hilty and Allen were joined by friends and clergy, who led a public prayer service before the couple entered the Register of Deeds office.
"Our federal government acknowledges same-sex marriage. There is no reason our state should not," said Allen, a native of Western North Carolina.
Beach-Ferrara called on "elected officials like North Carolina State Rep. Michelle Presnell to propose legislation ensuring that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens of our state have equal legal protections in all spheres of life."
"In 13 years we’ve been through a lot together and we still want to get married," Hilty said. "To be denied this right is an insult to the heart’s capacity to love, which no single person or government should be able to judge."
Madison County ranks eighth out of North Carolina’s 100 counties in the percentage of same-sex couples per 1,000 households, according to 2010 Census data. North Carolina is one of 37 states that prohibit same-sex marriage.
In the past four decades, the UCC's General Synod, the main deliberative body of the denomination, has adopted resolutions affirming LGBT persons, calling for an end to discrimination and equal protection under the law, including the freedom to marry. There are 13 states, along with Washington, D.C., that permit, or will soon permit, same-sex marriages: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Maryland, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.