North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper

Originally published: Oct. 14, 2013, 6:01 p.m.
Updated: Oct. 15, 2013, 3:31 p.m.

ASHEVILLE, N.C. — The Buncombe County Register of Deeds accepted marriage license applications from 10 same-sex couples on Tuesday. Though he did not process them, the official says he wants to and will seek an opinion from the state’s attorney general.

Register of Deeds Drew Reisinger announced Monday afternoon that he would accept the applications after activists from the Campaign for Southern Equality informed him that couples would would visit his office. The Asheville protest action follows a similar event in Charlotte last week, when three same-sex couples were denied marriage licenses.

“I will let each couple know that it is my hope to grant them a license, but I need to seek the North Carolina Attorney General’s approval,” Reisinger said in a release. “I have concerns about whether we are violating people’s civil rights based on this summer’s Supreme Court decision.”

North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper
North Carolina Attorney
General Roy Cooper

Reisinger did as he said he would and accepted the license applications. He withheld his own signature pending an opinion from state Attorney General Roy Cooper.

“Generally, I would sign here and I’m going to withhold my signature,” Reisinger told a couple. “What we’re going to do is we’re going to give this to our attorney general and ask for his permission to grant y’all a marriage license. It seems that y’all qualify for every reason under the law except for your sexual orientation and we think there are some real constitutional questions that are raised in that. I took an oath to uphold the State of North Carolina’s Constitution and the United States Constitution and the United States Constitution demands equal rights for all people and so that’s what we’re going to ask the attorney general to look over for us. So, my hope is that he will grant me permission to grant y’all this license.”

Cooper, who is expected to run for governor in 2016, told The Associated Press on Monday that he supports equality for same-sex couples. His personal views, he said, would not prevent him from defending the state in a current lawsuit challenging the state’s anti-LGBT constitutional amendment and an adoption ban for same-sex couples.

Cooper’s office has said they will not be able to recognize the marriage license applications.

“The State Constitution says that these marriage licenses cannot be issued, and this is the law unless the Constitution is changed or the court says otherwise,” Noelle Talley, a Cooper spokeswoman, said in a statement, according to The Citizen-Times. “This very issue is the subject of pending litigation against the State of North Carolina.”

Equality advocates in North Carolina have praised Cooper’s supportive personal remarks.

“The Attorney General has long been an advocate for equal rights for all people and we applaud him for publicly aligning with a fast-growing majority of North Carolinians who now support the legal relationship recognitions between committed LGBT couples,” Chris Sgro, executive director of Equality North Carolina, said in a release.

Cooper is scheduled to speak at Equality North Carolina’s annual fundraising dinner in Greensboro on Nov. 9. The scheduled speech and Cooper’s Monday announcement has upset anti-LGBT organizers in the state.

The North Carolina Family Policy Council last week criticized Cooper’s scheduled appearance at the Equality North Carolina dinner.

“We believe it is inappropriate for him to participate in that event in that fashion while he is … the lead defense attorney in a case that is attempting to overturn our marriage laws, which is a major goal and agenda of Equality North Carolina,” Family Policy Council Executive Director Rustin told the AP.

Sgro has said the Family Policy Council is attempting to bully Cooper into silence.

“The NC Family Policy Council is an extremist group that represents a small minority of North Carolinians,” Sgro said. “Their attempt to bully our state’s attorney general mirrors their constant efforts to marginalize LGBT North Carolinians. But, as history has consistently proven, these fruitless efforts will not deter a single fair-minded North Carolinian in our collective fight for equality.”

The Family Policy Council is a state affiliate of the Washington, D.C.-based Family Research Council, an organization the Southern Poverty Law Center has named a hate group. The D.C. council’s president, Tony Perkins, has had past associations with white supremacist organizations.

Matt Comer

Matt Comer previously served as editor from October 2007 through August 2015 and as a staff writer afterward in 2016.