North Carolina voters approved a constitutional ban on legally recognizing same-sex relationships just last year, but some officials may already be testing its merit. Attorney General Roy Cooper announced this week that he supports marriage equality , but will still defend the ban against the federal lawsuit filed by six same-sex couples. Buncombe County Register of Deeds Drew Reisinger wants to see just how supportive Cooper is.
Reisinger announced that he will start issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples Tuesday, though he will withhold his signature. He explained that he still needs Cooper’s approval, but, he says, “I have concerns about whether we are violating people’s civil rights based on this summer’s Supreme Court decision [overturning the Defense of Marriage Act.]” Cooper’s office responded that “these marriage licenses cannot be issued” until a court says otherwise.
Nevertheless, the Campaign for Southern Equality and its WE DO campaign have six same-sex couples ready to apply. Among them are Brenda Clark and Carol McCrory, who’ve been together 25 years and have requested and been denied marriage licenses from the Buncombe country Register of Deeds Office four times since 2011.
As Chris Geidner at BuzzFeed points out, Reisinger has distinguished himself from Bruce Hanes, the Montgomery County, Pennsylvania Register of Wills who began offering same-sex marriage licenses in late July. Hanes issued 174 such licenses before being ordered to stop, and those couples’ marriages are now in legal flux. In contrast, Reisinger is avoiding certification of the licenses he’ll offer, possibly creating a new legal framework for those couples to file their own challenge against North Carolina’s constitutional ban.
Reisinger accepted marriage applications from 10 couples, which he will hold in hopes Cooper will give him reason to sign them.