UCC minister applauds step toward LGBT equality in North Carolina
Written by Anthony Moujaes October 18, 2013
The Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara
Is marriage equality on the horizon in North Carolina? It's too soon to tell, but based on the actions of Asheville area county clerk, it might be headed that way. Same-sex couples in North Carolina lined up by the dozens recently in Buncombe County after the registrar announced he would issue marriage certificates, despite the state's Amendment One that prohibits marriage equality. The Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, a United Church of Christ ordained minister and LGBT activist in the south, thinks it's a step in the right direction toward LGBT equality.
Drew Reisinger, the Buncombe County Register of Deeds, said in a statement on Oct. 14 that he is willing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, and will seek an opinion from North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper regarding whether he can do so. Cooper announced his support for marriage equality for the first time on Oct. 15.
"There are neither moral nor legal grounds to justify Amendment One and it's time for citizens and elected officials to act with conviction and urgency to change it. Mr. Reisinger's actions are another step forward in the path to full equality for LGBT people," says Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, executive director of the Campaign for Southern Equality. "Attorney General Cooper, who has just announced his support for marriage equality, can choose not to defend Amendment One, as has happened in other states with similar laws.
"Until this law changes, we will continue to stand with same-sex couples across North Carolina as they ask their local Register of Deeds to issue marriage licenses as an act of conscience," she added.
Same-sex couples sought licenses on Oct. 15 in Buncombe County as part of the WE DO Campaign, an initiative of the Campaign for Southern Equality that Beach-Ferrara launched two years ago. Through the WE DO Campaign, same-sex couples have requested marriage licenses at the Buncombe County Register of Deeds Office multiple times since 2011. Launched in 2011, the WE DO Campaign has involved more than 90 LGBT couples requesting marriage licenses in their hometowns across the South as a call for full legal equality.
In his statement, Reisinger said he has concerns "about whether we are violating people's civil rights based on this summer's Supreme Court decision." Buncombe County is home to 1,200 same-sex couples according to the 2010 U.S. Census, the highest of any county in North Carolina.
Marriage license offices in other states with bans on same-sex marriage, most recently Pennsylvania, have taken the step of issuing licenses to same-sex couples. Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane has refused to defend the state's ban on same-sex marriage, calling it "wholly unconstitutional." In New Mexico, which does not prohibit or recognize same-sex marriage, several counties recently began granting marriage licenses to LGBT couples.
The UCC's General Synod affirmed full marriage equality for all couples in 2005, making it the first mainline denomination to allow same-sex marriages in the United States. The General Synod also stated that government should not interfere with couples who choose to marry, and instead should share fully equally in the rights, responsibilities and commitment of legally recognized marriages. There are now more than 1,000 open and affirming churches registered with the UCC Coalition for LGBT Concerns.
There are currently 13 states, along with Washington, D.C., that permit same-sex marriages: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Maryland, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.