CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Late Tuesday, the North Carolina attorney general’s office sent an official legal letter to the Buncombe County Register of Deeds, warning “an issuance of a marriage license to a same-sex couple would be a violation of the law.”
Earlier Tuesday, Drew Reisinger accepted 11 marriage licenses from gay couples in the Asheville area. The Register of Deeds didn’t sign the paperwork, pending a legal opinion from Attorney General Roy Cooper.
Reisinger told the couples there’s a conflict between state and federal law.
“It seems that ya'll qualify for every reason under the law, except for your sexual orientation, and we think there are some real constitutional questions that are raised under that," Reisinger said.
Marriage equality advocates say Reisinger’s acceptance of the licenses signified an important step in North Carolina.
“That was one of our hopes: that the Register of Deeds would at least accept the license and move it along a little further, which is what they did in Buncombe County,” said Joey Hewell, who attempted to get a marriage license with his partner last week in Mecklenburg County.
Hewell and Lindsley, along with two other couples, were turned away by Mecklenburg County Register of Deeds David Granberry.
The Campaign for Southern Equality has launched a movement encouraging same-sex couples across the South to apply for marriage licenses. Tuesday marked the first time a clerk agreed, and accepted the licenses. The group plans similar attempts in Cabarrus and Rowan counties in November.
“Even if our attorney general declines it, it’s another step in our state accepting our marriage," said Hewell, glancing at Lindsley.