ASHEVILLE, N.C. -- The Buncombe County Register of Deeds says he s going to accept marriage license applications from same-sex couples and seek an opinion from North Carolina s top lawyer.

A 2012 amendment to North Carolina s Constitution forbids same-sex couples from marrying. But Drew Reisinger said Monday he will hold the licenses and then ask state Attorney General Roy Cooper for legal advice.

I am more than willing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, but I want to have the legal clarification of my attorney general Roy Cooper, Reisinger told The Associated Press.

Reisinger s announcement came hours after Cooper revealed he supports same-sex marriage. But Cooper also said his personal views won t prevent him from defending North Carolina s ban in court.

Reisinger said he felt compelled to take action.

I was frustrated turning down marriage licenses from upstanding citizens from my community again and again. I had a handful of friends come into my office and request licenses, and we had to deny them specifically because of their sexual orientation. And I just didn t feel like it was fair anymore, Reisinger said.

It reached a point where if we can legally grant marriage licenses to gay people, we would like to do that, he said.

The initial word from the attorney general s office was that he cannot legally grant the licenses.

Attorney general office spokeswoman Noelle Talley said in a statement these marriage licenses cannot be issued.

This is the law unless the Constitution is changed or the court says otherwise. This very issue is the subject of pending litigation against the State of North Carolina, Talley said in a written statement.

The Campaign for Southern Equality has been going from county to county, trying to find someone to issue marriage licenses for same-sex couples as part of its We Do campaign.

Last week, three Charlotte-area couples applied for marriage licenses at the Mecklenburg County Register of Deeds. The office denied them the licenses.

Group spokesman Aaron Sarver says same-sex couples will show up Tuesday at the Register of Deeds office in Asheville to apply for licenses.

Cooper is named as a defendant and is the state s lead designated attorney in a lawsuit filed by several same-sex couples that was recently expanded to challenge the constitutionality of the amendment in light of a U.S. Supreme Court decision over the summer.

Cooper speaks out

When Cooper opposed passage of the May 2012 amendment prohibiting same-sex marriages, which passed by a comfortable margin, he spoke mostly about the lack of clarity in its language. He had never addressed publicly his views on the issue itself.

But when asked over the weekend by The Associated Press whether he d like to see the amendment repealed or a law passed to sanction same-sex marriage, Cooper said: I support marriage equality.

His announcement worries social conservative groups that supported the amendment s passage but aren t sure that Cooper will robustly defend the state in court. They are particularly unhappy with Cooper for agreeing to speak at next month s annual fundraiser for the gay-rights organization Equality North Carolina. While not a plaintiff in the lawsuit, Equality NC lobbies for expanding rights for gays and lesbians.

Cooper s planned Nov. 9 speech draws into serious question the intent of the attorney general with respect to the lawsuit, North Carolina Family Policy Council executive director John Rustin said Monday.

Cooper, a Democrat who is laying the groundwork for a bid for governor in 2016, told the AP he speaks with many diverse groups all over North Carolina about issues facing this state, and this is no different. Equality NC leaders asked him to speak, Cooper added.

Equality NC executive director Chris Sgro was ecstatic hearing of Cooper s personal support for expanding marriage to include same-sex couples, which is now granted in 13 states and the District of Columbia.

Bob Stephens, general counsel for Gov. Pat McCrory told reporters two weeks ago that Cooper s strong personal opposition to the elections law compromised his ability to represent the state of North Carolina. Cooper said he can set aside his personal views to carry out his constitutional duties as the state s top lawyer.

Read or Share this story: