Attorney General Offers Gay Marriage Support in North Carolina, Rogue Clerk Begins Accepting Illegal License Requests

A rogue clerk in North Carolina accepted marriage license requests from over 10 same-sex couples Tuesday morning in spite of the state's ban on same-sex marriage. This decision comes as the state's Attorney General Roy Cooper announced over the weekend that he personally supports same-sex marriage, but will still defend the state's ban against such marriages in a lawsuit.

On Tuesday morning, Buncombe County Register of Deeds Drew Reisinger accepted the request for a marriage license submitted by Brenda Clark and Carol McCrory, who have reportedly been same-sex partners for 25 years. After accepting the initial license, Reisinger reportedly went on to accept 10 more throughout Tuesday. The event was organized on behalf of the Campaign for Southern Equality to have same-sex marriage legalized in the state.

Reisinger stopped short of signing and issuing the marriage licenses at Tuesday's event, saying that he would like to formally ask Attorney General Roy Cooper to validate the marriage licenses. A call by The Associated Press to Cooper's office found that Cooper will not approve the licenses.

Reisinger said in an interview that he has chosen to distribute the licenses simply because he personally has decided that the state's ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. At the event on Tuesday, he told attendees that while he believes it is right to accept the license requests, he will seek formal approval from the attorney general.

"It seems that y'all qualify for every reason under the law except your sexual orientation," Reisinger reportedly told the same-sex couples, according to the Mountain XPress. "I took an oath to uphold North Carolina's constitution, I also took an oath to uphold the United States Constitution, which demands equal rights for all people. My hope is that he [Cooper] will allow me permission to grant you this license. For now we'll hold onto this license until we can get the attorney general's approval."

When The Associated Press asked Cooper this past weekend if he would like the see the state's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage lifted, Cooper responded: "I support marriage equality." The constitutional ban on same-sex marriage passed in just May 2012 with over 61 percent voter approval. 

Cooper was clear to add, however, that he would still defend the state's ban on same-sex marriage in court. The state is currently being sued by several same-sex couples who are challenging the constitutionality of the state's ban in light of the Supreme Court's June ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act. Cooper is named as a defendant in the case and listed as the state's main defending attorney.

Cooper's vocal personal support for same-sex marriage has concerned those who support the historical and biblical definition of marriage as a union between one man and one woman, with many believing that the attorney general will not wholeheartedly defend the ban.

John Rustin, executive director of the North Carolina Family Policy Council, told The Associated Press Monday that his group and others are particularly concerned that Cooper plans to speak at a fundraiser for the pro-gay group Equality North Carolina in November. His planned speech calls "into serious question the intent of the attorney general with respect to the lawsuit," Rustin said.

Earlier this summer, a clerk in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania began issuing same-sex marriage licenses in spite of the state's ban on same-sex marriage. He was sued by Gov. Tom Corbett's office and ordered to stop the practice immediately by a judge. He has since announced that he plans to appeal the ruling.