Originally published: Oct. 14, 2011, 4:20 p.m
Updated: Oct. 14, 2011, 5 p.m.
ASHEVILLE, N.C. — A lesbian couple twice refused a marriage license by the Buncombe County Register of Deeds refused to leave the government office today and initiated a sit-in. The two were arrested.
Rev. Kathryn Cartledge and Elizabeth Eve, her partner of 30 years, were among the first couples to request a license last week as a part of the Coalition for Southern Equality’s “We Do” Campaign. They were the last couple request a license for a second time today and refused to leave the office after their denial. The two were arrested at about 4 p.m. after being asked to leave and continuing their sit-in. They have been charged with trespassing and were immediately released by local law enforcement.
The civil disobedience was the culmination of a two-week-long campaign organized by the Coalition for Southern Equality and comes as campaigns form to defeat an anti-LGBT state constitutional amendment on marriage and civil unions. About two dozen same-sex couples have been denied marriage licenses over the course of the group’s “We Do” Campaign. The group organized several couples in requesting the licenses each weekday since Oct. 3.
Coalition for Southern Equality Executive Director Jasmine Beach-Ferrara has described her group’s campaign as a social justice movement. She says it is time to demand full equality for LGBT people.
“Today’s action is about real people saying, I will no longer live as a second-class citizen in my country,” Beach-Ferrara said in a statement following the arrests. “Kathryn and Elizabeth have devoted their lives to public service and to the values of love and fairness. Today, they stand up not just for their right to be marry, but for all LGBT people who know first hand how harmful these laws are. We are saying, simply, we are equal people. Laws that treat us as unequal must change. We will continue to resist them until they do.”
The “We Do” Campaign received mixed reviews from LGBT community members. Anti-gay activists weren’t pleased either. Tami Fitzgerald, executive director of the pro-amendment group North Carolina Values Coalition, had called the campaign a “strategic mistake” on the part of LGBT advocates.
“I think it makes our case why we need an amendment,” Fitzgerald told AP writer Tom Breen last week. “When people see that, they’re going to be concerned, and they’re going to take it as a sign of aggression on the part of people who advocate for same-sex marriage.”
Beach-Ferrera has rejected Fitzgerald’s views and other cautionary notes, even from fellow LGBT activists.
“Whether the amendment passes or fails, LGBT people will still be second-class citizens in North Carolina and that is unjust,” Beach-Ferrara told qnotes.
She continued, “What makes this so insidious is that laws that treat people as second-class citizens make us complicit in our own persecution. Laws like these hurt everyone. They hurt the people they are being enforced against and the people whose job it is to enforce them.”
The Coalition for Southern Equality’s campaign in Asheville has come to an end, at least for now. Organizers don’t anticipate any further civil disobediences in the city, but have announced that they will expand their campaign in 2012 to other communities across the state.