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Same-sex marriage fight heads to Rowan County

A three-month fight against North Carolina’s ban on same-sex marriage will move to Rowan County Friday morning, where a group of social activists will make its ninth attempt this year to get legal recognition for LGBT relationships.

The previous attempts by the Campaign for Southern Equality failed, including Oct. 9 in Mecklenburg County and Nov. 4 in Cabarrus County.

Most of the previous efforts ended with a courteous refusal from the register of deeds in the counties where the ban was tested. J. David Granberry, Mecklenburg’s register of deeds, told three same-sex couples who applied for a license that he understood their interest in getting a license but said he had to follow state law.

One exception was in Buncombe County, where Register of Deeds Drew Reisinger accepted the applications from same-sex couples. He didn’t grant licenses, however, instead asking state Attorney General Roy Cooper for a ruling. Cooper has said he supports same-sex marriage but is determined to uphold state law.

At 10:30 a.m. Friday, three same-sex couples from Rowan County are scheduled to seek recognition of their relationships.

Tamara Sheffield and Maryja Mee, together for 23 years, and Ashley Wilson and Victoria Moore, together for 13 years, will apply for marriage licenses.

They will ask the Rowan County Register of Deeds Office to issue licenses “as an act of conscience and in recognition that Amendment One, which bans same-sex marriage, violates their freedom to marry,” according to a news release the Campaign for Southern Equality.

Robert Lambrecht and Jon Planovsky, together for 30 years, will record their California marriage license at the Register of Deeds office; in doing so, they will create a public record of their marriage, which is recognized by the federal government and 16 states, but not North Carolina, the campaign’s news release said.

“Our goal today is to let everyone know we are no different than any other couple in Rowan County,” Sheffield and Mee said in the release. “We are requesting a marriage license today to give people an opportunity to make a personal connection” to the issue of same-sex marriage.

Rowan County is the 16th N.C. county where LGBT couples have taken action through the WE DO Campaign to call for full equality under the law.

“These brave couples are standing up because they have a fundamental right to marry and to have their marriage recognized in their home state,” the Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, executive director of the Campaign for Southern Equality, said in the news release. “We want LGBT youth in Rowan County to know that people are standing up for equality.”

Beach-Ferrara said the group will continue taking action in the state until the law changes.

Earlier this year, county officials in New Mexico and Pennsylvania granted marriage licenses to same-sex couples, and some of those opposed to the marriages say they believe the Campaign for Southern Equality is hoping to find an official somewhere in North Carolina who is willing to follow suit.

Tami Fitzgerald of the N.C. Values Coalition told The Associated Press in September that she believes the effort is a stealth attempt to overcome the results of Amendment One, a ballot proposition in May 2012 that defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman. That issue passed with support from 61 percent of the electorate.

“What they’re encouraging registers of deed to do is to actually break the law,” Fitzgerald said.

Staff writer Steve Lyttle contributed.

Marusak: 704-358-5067; Twitter: @jmarusak
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