A county official in North Carolina says he will accept marriage license applications from same-sex couples and seek an opinion from North Carolina’s top lawyer.
A 2012 amendment to North Carolina’s Constitution forbids same-sex couples from marrying. But Buncombe County Register of Deeds Drew Reisinger said Monday he will hold the licenses and then ask state Attorney General Roy Cooper for legal advice.
Reisinger said he had been forced to deny same-sex marriage licenses to “upstanding citizens,” and he felt like that was not fair.
However, Cooper’s spokeswoman Noelle Talley said in a written statement “these marriage licenses cannot be issued.”
Reisinger’s announcement came hours after Cooper revealed he supports same-sex marriage. But Cooper also said his personal views won’t prevent him from defending North Carolina’s ban in court.
Michigan same-sex couples await go-ahead to marry
DETROIT — A U.S. District Court judge is expected to issue a ruling, as early as Wednesday, on whether Michigan’s 2004 ban on same-sex marriage violates the U.S. Constitution. Judge Bernard Friedman also may decide whether the state’s ban on same-sex adoption should be tossed.
Should Friedman lift the ban on same-sex marriage and decline to issue a stay while it’s being appealed, same-sex marriage would be legal in Michigan until a higher court overturned it.
Dozens, and perhaps hundreds, of same-sex couples are preparing to tie the knot Wednesday afternoon, according to organizers in the gay and lesbian communities.
Some Michigan counties are offering to waive waiting times for marriage licenses, and 44 clergy members statewide will be on call to perform ceremonies, said Randy Block of the Michigan Unitarian Universalist Social Justice Network, who has compiled a list of available county clerks and clergy.
Robin Miner-Swartz, 42, and Betsy Miner-Swartz, 49, of Lansing, Mich., have been together for 10 years and celebrated a commitment ceremony in 2008 with friends and family. Now, they’re hoping for a chance to make it legal.
“We want this to happen in Michigan,” said Robin Miner-Swartz. “It’s just another hoop. But on the other hand, this is a very big deal.”
Bishop Jerry Brohl of the Blessed John XXII Community Church in Wyandotte, Mich., will have his robes Wednesday afternoon in anticipation of couples seeking a wedding ceremony.
“I don’t think God makes the kind of distinctions that we do,” he said. “Love is love. We’re an interfaith Christian church, and we welcome all people.”
In the case before Friedman, April DeBoer, 42, and Jayne Rowse, 48, of Hazel Park, Mich., are asking the court to overturn a 2004 law that prohibits same-sex couples from marrying in the state and to declare unconstitutional Michigan’s Adoption Code, which prohibits joint adoption by gay or lesbian couples.
“This is the defining civil rights issue of our era,” said attorney Kenneth Mogill, representing the plaintiffs in the federal lawsuit filed in January 2012.
Michigan State Attorney General Bill Schuette will argue to uphold the marriage ban before Friedman on Wednesday.
“The United States Supreme Court has ruled that states retain the constitutional authority to define marriage,” said Joy Yearout, spokeswoman for Schuette. “We will continue to defend the Michigan Constitution in this case.”
Friedman could issue his opinion from the bench. Should he lift the ban on same-sex marriage, Schuette’s office would probably ask him to issue a stay while the decision is appealed to a higher court.
If Friedman declines, same-sex marriage would be legal in the state immediately.
“What I’m telling people is: If you want to do it, now’s the time,” said attorney Dana Nessel, who represents same-sex couples. “If you want to file your taxes as a couple, if you want to file a petition for adoption, you will be legally married until a court of higher jurisdiction overturns it, if that should happen.”
Schuette’s office said Friday that “it wouldn’t be proper to prejudge the ruling at this time, and we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.”
The case has captured the attention of the gay and lesbian community nationwide.
DeBoer and Rowse, registered nurses, have three adopted children, all with special needs. Rowse adopted Nolan, 4, and Jacob, 3, shortly after birth. DeBoer adopted Ryanne, 3, as a newborn.
Under Michigan law, because the two cannot legally marry, Rowse has no legal standing with Ryanne, and DeBoer is not recognized as a parent to Nolan and Jacob. As a result, they argue in their lawsuit, they and their children are denied the same rights as heterosexual couples, such as authorizing medical care and accessing educational records. Should one woman die, the other would have no legal claim to her partner’s children.
Schuette, in fighting the case, has argued that it is up to states to determine their marriage laws. He argues that when it comes to same-sex couples and adoption, “traditional marriages” ensure that “children receive proper role models of each gender … that the state may conclude that it is better for children to be reared with both a mother and a father.”
Attorneys representing DeBoer and Rowse point to numerous studies showing children who are raised by same-sex parents are no different from those raised by heterosexual parents, including a statement by the American Psychiatric Association, which is now part of the court record.
“Numerous studies over the last three decades consistently demonstrate that children raised by gay or lesbian parents exhibit the same level of emotional, cognitive, social and sexual functions as those raised by heterosexual parents,” the association says. “The research shows that the optimal development for children is based not on the sexual orientation of the parents but on stable attachments to committed and nurturing adults.”