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Gay couple's courageous stand in Marion, North Carolina

Keisha and Dericka knew that when they went to the McDowell County Register of Deeds’ Office this morning to request a marriage license as part of the WE DO Campaign, they would almost certainly be denied. What they didn’t expect, however, was that 150 counter-protestors would hold a rally on the courthouse lawn.

WE DO participants pray in front of the McDowell County Courthouse, where hundreds of anti-gay protestors had gathered.

WE DO participants pray in front of the McDowell County Courthouse, where hundreds of anti-gay protestors had gathered.

With the sounds of condemnation in the background, the couple received a blessing from their minister, Rev. Christy Corna, who will officiate their wedding ceremony in September. They then proceeded to the Register of Deeds Office, hand-in-hand, followed by friends and supporters.

“This is what courage looks like–for Keisha and Dericka and their friends to stand up publicly for equality when there is so much pressure to stay silent, when you are outnumbered by those who are protesting you,” said Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, executive director of the Campaign for Southern Equality. “

Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara leads the group of WE DO participants in prayer.

Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara leads the group of WE DO participants in prayer.

As they stood at the counter, Keisha and Dare held their heads high and stated their intentions to the clerk. They handed their drivers’ licenses to the clerk, who examined them and stated that they were ineligible for a marriage license because they are a same-sex couple. Keisha and Dare explained that they want their family to be recognized by the state of North Carolina and by their hometown of Marion. The clerk refused to accept their application or to write “DENIED” on it.

Keisha (left) and Dericka attempt to submit their application for a marriage license in McDowell County, North Carolina.

Keisha (left) and Dericka attempt to submit their application for a marriage license in McDowell County, North Carolina.

As they left the office and stepped back outside, the couple was greeted by friends and supporters cheering.

“I hope that what we did today can help my future children have a better life,” said Dare. “I hope that no child has to encounter some of the struggles I have.”

Dare and Keisha share a lighthearted moment after being denied a marriage license.

Because of North Carolina’s ban on same-sex marriage, Keisha and Dericka will travel to Washington, D.C. this weekend to legally marry.

Winston-Salem could pass same-sex partner benefits policy

CSE Legal Intern Liz Vennum speaks to WInston-Salem councilmembers about the domestic partner benefits proposal
CSE Legal Intern Liz Vennum speaks to WInston-Salem councilmembers about the domestic partner benefits proposal

On July 15, the city council in Winston-Salem, specifically the Committee on General Government, Housing, and Community Development, discussed a proposal that could add domestic partner benefits to the list of benefits that municipal employees can receive. The committee outlined possible eligibility criteria for benefits such as health insurance and retirement savings to include eligible partners of LGBT city employees.

Because of a statewide ban on marriage equality in North Carolina, LGBT couples across the state don’t have access to many of the basic benefits that opposite-sex marriages offer. A growing patchwork of city-level protections across North Carolina attempts to make up for the difficulties that LGBT people and families face, while the Campaign for Southern Equality pushes forward with a legal challenge to Amendment One that would make marriage available for all.

Winston-Salem residents and the Campaign for Southern Equality (CSE) have been advocating for the passage of this measure for many months and are hopeful that the policy will pass when it goes to a full vote before City Council. Watch a video of the committee meeting, where local activists Brent Morin and Mary Jamis, and CSE Legal Intern Liz Vennum testify in favor of the benefits policy. (Discussion of the proposal begins around 40:00.)

“We strongly encourage the city of Winston-Salem to pass a policy that extends domestic partner benefits to municipal employees,” said the Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, the executive director of Campaign for Southern Equality. “At a time when discrimination persists under state laws, it is critical to ensure that LGBT employees are treated fairly and equitably.”

Here are a few highlights from CSE’s white paper on the proposal:

With an estimated 618 same-sex couples residing here, Winson-Salem has the sixth highest density of same-sex couples among North Carolina cities.

An estimated 130 Winston-Salem city employees are LGBT.

LGBT public sector employees typically earn between 8 and 29 percent less than their heterosexual counterparts, which is compounded by the economic burdens that come when employers don’t include all members of an LGBT family in benefits.

Read the full proposal put forward in the committee meeting.

A vote on the proposal is expected in August or September. If you’re a resident of Winston-Salem, contact your councilmember and tell them to vote YES on extending employee benefits to LGBT families. District and contact information is here.

Upcoming WE DO actions: July and August

We’re winning in the courts. We’re winning case after case, as we head back to the Supreme Court for a 50-state ruling on marriage equality. But now is not the time to sit by and wait for court rulings. It’s time to continue and broaden our call for rights by taking action in the public square.

The Campaign for Southern Equality is launching another round of WE DO actions this summer and fall in South Carolina, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee!

The WE DO Campaign involves LGBT couples requesting marriage licenses in their hometowns across the South to call for full equality under federal law.

jasmine winston salem journal

We are recruiting:

(1) Unmarried LGBT* couples who will request marriage licenses (training is required);

(2) LGBT* people and allies who will be part of the Support Team that stands with couples.

If you have any questions, contact our campaign manager Lindsey Simerly at lindsey@southernequality.org or 828.242.1559.

WATCH a WE DO Campaign action:

Marion, North Carolina WE DO action (July 22)

Keisha and Derica will apply for a marriage license at the McDowell County Register of Deeds’ office on July 22 and 11 a.m. In the days after they take action with the WE DO Campaign they will travel to Washington, D.C. to be legally wed, unless Amendment One is struck down by the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals before then.

Louisville, Kentucky WE DO action (July 28)

Same-sex Kentucky couples will apply for marriage licenses at the Jefferson County Clerks office in Louisville. Couples will be joined by clergy, friends, family and supporters. They will then travel by bus to Metropolis, Illinois where same-sex marriage is legal. The couples will be married on the banks of the Ohio River just across the water from their home state of Kentucky.

This WE DO action is a joint project of the Campaign for Southern Equality, Faith Leaders for Fairness, ACLU of Kentucky and the Fairness Campaign.

RSVP at https://www.facebook.com/events/478601092274915/.

Greenville, South Carolina WE DO action (July 30)

This action will be led by the Gender Benders, an organization for transgender, gender variant and allied folks in upstate South Carolina, will be leading this action.

Please join us at the Warehouse Theatre in downtown Greenville and support the couples as they apply for marriage licenses!

RSVP at https://www.facebook.com/events/327549554063432/.

Location: The Warehouse Theatre, 37 Augusta St., Greenville, South Carolina 29601

Greenville, SC

Supporters surround WE DO couples in Greenville, South Carolina during a 2013 action

Lafayette, Louisiana WE DO action (August 11)

This is the first time we have run a WE DO action in Louisiana! Please help us stand up and speak out for marriage equality in Lafayette.

RSVP at https://www.facebook.com/events/1434273063518060/.

WE DO actions across Mississippi (August 13)

Legally married couples in counties across the state will be recording their marriage licenses at their local chancery courts. This action is a stand against Mississippi’s immoral and unjust ban against same-sex marriage. This also creates a public record that legally-married same-sex couples do live all across Mississippi.

RSVP at https://www.facebook.com/events/1533456656875707/.

Hattiesburg

WE DO Campaign training in Hattiesburg, Mississippi

Campaign for Southern Equality events in June

Tuesday, July 17 from 6:30 to 8:45 pm: Screening of God Loves Uganda

A hard-hitting documentary exposing the role of American evangelism in fueling Uganda’s terrifying turn toward the death penalty for gays. This event is co-sponsored by Land of the Sky UCC. Please note this film includes disturbing content and is intended for adult audiences. Child care will be provided. Facilitated discussion of the film to follow.

RSVP at https://www.facebook.com/events/423296547807487/

Location: Kenilworth Presbyterian Church, 123 Kenilworth Road, Asheville, N.C. 28803

Wednesday, July 18 from 4 to 6:30 pm: How to use Facebook and Twitter to Increase your Impact

Social media plays an increasingly large role in economic and social justice movements. This workshop, presented by Aaron Sarver of the Campaign for Southern Equality, will teach you how to leverage the power of Facebook and Twitter to communicate your message effectively and inspire your supporters to take action.

After the social media training we’re holding a Smart Phone Workshop. Your phone can help you to: expedite and/or confirm a voter’s registration, access social media, do research and more.

https://www.facebook.com/events/249442388583371/

Location: United Way of Asheville | 50 S French Broad Avenue, Asheville, N.C. 28801

Saturday, June 21 from 11 a.m. to 5 pm: Community Law Workshop at Salisbury Pride

The Campaign for Southern Equality will offer free health care power of attorney clinics at Pride celebrations across North Carolina this summer with the Freedom Center for Social Justice’s LGBTQ Law Center in order to serve the LGBT community in North Carolina.

“The Campaign for Southern Equality is excited to offer this service free of charge at PRIDE events across North Carolina this summer and to partner with the LGBTQ Center. No LGBT person should be without a Health Care Power . . . → Read More: Campaign for Southern Equality events in June

Attorney General’s office responds to Amendment One lawsuit

AG’s office defends ban on same-sex marriage despite rulings from 15 federal courts that such bans are unconstitutional

Today the North Carolina Attorney General’s office formally responded to the Plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction in General Synod of the United Church of Christ vs. Cooper, a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of North Carolina’s marriage laws. Plaintiffs in the case requested swift action from the Court due to the immediate and irreparable harms that discriminatory marriage laws inflict upon same-sex couples and clergy every day that these laws remain in effect.

However, in today’s filing the Attorney General’s office argued that the preliminary injunction should be denied, and that the State’s interest in following the law as written outweighs the Plaintiffs’ interest in obtaining immediate relief from these discriminatory laws. The Court could rule on the preliminary injunction in the coming weeks.

“The State fails to acknowledge the harm suffered by the plaintiff couples — a harm recognized by every court that has considered the issue since Windsor. We are sorely disappointed that the State of North Carolina continues to deny equal rights to all of its citizens. Fifteen federal courts in recent months have made clear – emphatically and unequivocally – that it is unconstitutional for state governments to discriminate against loving and committed couples who want the benefits and security that marriage provides,” said Jacob Sussman, an attorney at Tin Fulton Walker & Owen, and lead counsel in the case.

Plaintiffs, Carol Taylor and Betty Mack, a same-sex couple who seek to marry in their church have been in a committed relationship since 1973. They both attend the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Asheville and have a close relationship with their pastor, Reverend Mark Ward, who is also a plaintiff in the . . . → Read More: Attorney General’s office responds to Amendment One lawsuit