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Carol Ann and Thomas Person were planning to be married when they went to a Forsyth County magistrate’s office in 1976.

Carol Ann and Thomas Person (Source: N&O/Person family)

Carol Ann and Thomas Person (Source: N&O/Person family)

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.

The entire piece, which is well worth reading, can be found here.
Commentary

Dan Forest[This post has been updated — the original version had an incorrect link]. Remember that kid on the grade school playground who hated losing so much that he’d grab the ball and go home when the game stopped going his way? It’s seems a safe bet that North Carolina Lt. Governor Dan Forest was such a child.

The man who is also pretty clearly North Carolina’s most reactionary statewide elected official in memory dispensed another ultraconservative pearl of wisdom recently when he told a radio host in Asheville that North Carolina will probably have to change the basics of state marriage laws now that same sex couples can partake.

After referring the “so-called right to get married” of same sex couples and explaining how liberal judges were misinterpreting the U.S. Constitution and acting to “legislate from the bench,” Forest, who is not a lawyer, agreed with radio host Peter Kaliner that North Carolina would probably have to follow Alabama’s lead and change state marriage laws. Recently, the Alabama Senate approved a bill that would change how the state deals with marriage so that rather than having state officials issue licenses, the state would simply register marriages after they’re witnessed by a private party.

When Kaliner asked Forest what he thought about such an approach, Forest said it was probably “a next step in North Carolina” if the U.S. Supreme Court upholds same-sex marriage. (Click here to listen to the entire depressing interview — the relevant portion is at around the 5:20 mark).

As to what all the implications of such a radical change would mean for people who no longer received a marriage license — either with respect to children, insurance, recognition in other states, etc… — is anybody’s guess, but it doesn’t seem to bother Forest, who would rather do away with state sanctioned marriages completely than let people he doesn’t approve of enjoy their benefits.

Commentary

Good for Gov. Pat McCrory. He announced this afternoon that he would veto the bill passed by the House today that would allow magistrates to opt out of their duty to officiate at marriages due to their “religious beliefs.”

Now, the question is: Can he make a veto stick or will he just get rolled over by state lawmakers as he usually does? A first look at the veto override math leads to the conclusion that he will have his work cut out for him.

The Senate seems likely to be a lost cause since only 30 votes are necessary to override and the bill passed with 32. There were also two excused absences — at least one of whom is a sure thing to support an override.

The House is where the drama will be. Assuming all members are present, 72 votes are necessary for an override. Since the bill passed by votes of 65-45 and 67-43, there would appear to be some hope. Note however, that there were 10 people who failed to participate in both votes. Add to this that at least two members voted for the measure on third reading who did not do so on second reading (Democrat Charles Graham went from “not voting” to “yes” and Republican David Lewis went from “no” to “yes”) and you can see how this could quickly get very messy.

The bottom line: Stay tuned as we’re about to find out a lot about McCrory and the future of North Carolina.

Commentary

Tammy CovilIn case you missed it in all of the social issues hullabaloo at the General Assembly over the past 24 hours, the good people at Equality NC have unearthed a troubling Facebook post by the co-chairperson of North Carolina’s Academic Standards Review Commission (aka the Common Core Commission).

Tammy Jobin Covil, an elected New Hanover County Board of Education member and an appointee of former House Speaker (and current U.S. Senator) Thom Tillis to the Common Core group, appears to have said the following in a post that was shared with a New Hanover Co. (NC) Republicans Facebook group:

“Yet another example of why the social issues matter in politics. Gay marriage isn’t about marriage rights at all, it’s about forcing others to accept a perverted lifestyle choice as ‘normal.’ It’s important to know where the leaders of our party stand on these issues because they have a profound impact on our society. #TheSocialIssuesMatter

Covil’s Facebook posts (and Twitter account) are “protected” and not available to the general public, but the comment — which was quoted and re-tweeted on the Equality NC Twitter account yesterday — was presumably forwarded to Equality NC by a concerned member of the New Hanover GOP group. The Fox TV station in Wilmington has coverage of the story here.

Of course, the post would not be surprising from a person who regularly espouses hard right views on an array of issues and who features a photo of herself and GOP presidential candidate Ben Carson on her Facebook page. Carson, of course, has uttered multiple anti-gay slurs during his discouragingly-extended time in public life and politics.

One has to wonder what Senator Tillis would think about the statement of his appointee. Here is the full Equality NC tweet:

Commentary

Gay marriage 2After it gave the bill a perfunctory review and then ignored it, there was hope that the North Carolina House had decided, smartly, to deep-six the discriminatory Senate proposal to allow North Carolina magistrates to opt out of marrying same sex couples. Now, sadly, the measure is back and scheduled to be heard in committee today.

Fortunately, the chances of this discriminatory proposal actually ever going into effect remain highly questionable. As reporter Sharon McCloskey explains over on the main Policy Watch site this morning, the bill is a successful lawsuit waiting to happen:

“If the bill passes in the House and becomes law, it would be the first of its kind in the country, according to Katharine Franke, a professor at Columbia University School of Law and director of its Center for Gender & Sexuality Law.

(A similar bill in Texas recently failed after corporations there voiced their opposition.)

And in the eyes of legal experts, it would be unquestionably unconstitutional.

Meanwhile, the Charlotte Observer explains in an excellent editorial this morning why it should never get that far: Read More