Carol Ann and Thomas Person were planning to be married when they went to a Forsyth County magistrate’s office in 1976.
To their suprise, they was turned away because two magistrates, citing their own religious beliefs, refused to marry an interracial couple.
The couple now lives in Moore County and have been married for 40 years.
Carol Ann wrote about the experience of being turned away by the county magistrates in this poignant editorial published in the News & Observer, to emphasize their opposition to Senate Bill 2, which would allow magistrates to refuse to marry same-sex couples.
“Whether gay or straight, black or white, Jew or Gentile, nobody has a right to tell anyone who they can love or marry,” she wrote.
The N.C. House of Representatives is expected to consider whether to override Gov. Pat McCrory’s veto later today.
From Person’s column:
I met the love of my life more than 40 years ago in Raleigh. Thomas is a lifelong North Carolinian. I was a recent transplant from Vermont. We are both legally blind, and soon after we met, we moved to Winston-Salem to work for the Industries of the Blind. Our friendship blossomed into love, and in 1976, Thomas proposed. I very happily said yes.
Soon after, we went to our local courthouse to receive a civil marriage license from one of the magistrates there, so we could commit our lives to each through a legal union. I was so excited. People always say your wedding day is supposed to be one of the happiest days of your life, and I was expecting mine to be exactly that.
But when we walked into that government office together, we were told that the magistrate on duty wouldn’t give us a marriage license. I was flabbergasted. We had planned everything, we had all our paperwork and we were legally eligible to get married.
So why wouldn’t he marry us? The reason, it turned out, was because Thomas is African-American, and I am white. The magistrate told us that marrying an interracial couple went against his religious beliefs. Our happy day quickly turned into a nightmare.
I was so surprised that a government official was using his own personal religious beliefs to deny us a civil marriage license that I didn’t know what to say. There was a second magistrate on duty, but he, too, said he wouldn’t marry us, because doing so would violate his religious beliefs. One of them took out a Bible and began to lecture us about their religious views and why Thomas and I should not be together. We eventually went down the street to the local Legal Aid office and returned with a lawyer, but the magistrates still refused. It was so upsetting.