RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The second anniversary of the passage of North Carolina's constitutional amendment prohibiting gay marriage was marked Thursday with same-sex couples unsuccessfully seeking licenses to wed, and amendment supporters rallying to preserve the ban.
About 300 people supporting the ban listened to ministers and other socially conservative speakers at the midday "Rally for Marriage" on the old Capitol grounds in Raleigh.
A few blocks away, three unmarried same-sex couples entered the Wake County Register of Deeds office and applied for marriage licenses on Thursday morning but were turned away. Couples have made similar attempts at other county offices through a campaign organized by the Asheville-based Campaign for Southern Equality.
Six other same-sex couples who were married in other states also went to the office to file their out of-state licenses for the public record. The marriages still aren't recognized in North Carolina. One of the six — Trudy and Justine Price-O'Neil — wanted to put a face on the issue of gay marriage. Justine Price O'Neill was eight months pregnant when the amendment passed on May 8, 2012 by more than 60 percent of voters.
"It was hurtful to be bringing a child into this world that was in a state that doesn't recognize us as a real family, and we want to show that we are a real family." she told WRAL-TV (http://bit.ly/1gcUIHh ).
Wake Register of Deeds Laura Riddick said her office can't change or overturn the law. The "registry is not the proper forum for either a public policy debate or a political protest," she said in a news release.
The pro-amendment rally, led by the North Carolina Values Coalition, also worked to raise awareness of recent efforts to overturn the ban. Last month, some clergy members filed a federal lawsuit challenging North Carolina's ban, saying it violated their religious freedom. There are at least two other lawsuits challenging North Carolina's prohibition.
"Through coercion, efforts will continue to be made to silence the truth that marriage by its very design and nature can only be the union of one man and one woman," said John Rustin, executive director of the North Carolina Family Policy Council. "If we do not stand for marriage now, this confrontation will hit the doorsteps of our church, cathedrals and synagogues before we even know it."
Gay marriage is legal in 17 states and the District of Columbia. Federal judges recently have struck down gay-marriage bans in several states, but stays have been issued pending appeals.