Gay couples in N.C. continue 'We Do' protest against marriage amendment

The Charlotte ObserverMay 16, 2012 

— Two women couples were denied requests for marriage licenses Tuesday in Charlotte as part of a statewide campaign to promote equal rights for same-sex couples.

The futile requests – which the couples knew would be rejected – came one week after North Carolina voters approved a constitutional amendment that bans same-sex marriage and civil unions.

Campaign for Southern Equality, an Asheville-based gay rights group, orchestrated the civil protest as part of its “We Do” movement. The effort, which spanned eight towns and cities statewide, began last week and ended in Charlotte on Tuesday. Local law enforcement and register of deeds offices were given advance notice of the protests, according to organizers.

After gathering in prayer with about 20 supporters outside the Mecklenburg County Register of Deeds office, Charlotte residents Alice Phelan, 63, and Sally Young, 55, went inside and approached the clerk’s desk.

“How can I help you?” the smiling clerk asked.

After checking the couple’s identification, the clerk apologized and said they could not marry under North Carolina law. “I’d be glad to give you a copy of the statute,” the clerk said, handing them a copy.

Phelan said later that Young asked the clerk to write “denial” on her application, and the clerk complied.

A similar scene played out moments later when Laurel Rose, 29, and Amy Rose, 27, approached the desk to ask for a marriage application.

Outside the clerk’s office, Laurel Rose cried in the arms of a supporter. “It was emotional,” she said. “Wow, this actually happens. They do say, ‘No.’”

When both couples stepped back outside, they were greeted with applause from supporters.

Phelan and Young told the clerk they’ve been a couple for 29 years.

“We love each other very much…Someday we hope for the right to be married,” Phelan said later.

Young said while she’s used to attention as a member of Charlotte’s gay and lesbian chorus, “Today was different.” But, Young said, it was important to make a public statement for a marriage license.

“It legitimizes who we are,” Young said. “I’m no different than anyone else.”

The Roses told the clerk they were married in 2010 in Washington, D.C., – which allows gay marriage – and wanted the marriage recognized in North Carolina. Both were born and raised in the state, according to Laurel Rose.

North Carolina already has a law in place banning same-sex marriage. We Do organizers said they planned the protests well before the passage of Amendment One – which writes that ban into the state constitution. The purpose, said the Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, executive director of the campaign, is to show “what it looks like when a discriminatory law is enforced.”

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