ASHEVILLE — Kathryn Cartledge and Elizabeth Eve sat on the floor of the Register of Deeds office in Asheville, opened a binder lined with pictures of their friends’ families and began to read aloud the more than 1,000 benefits given to legally-married couples.
Several minutes later, Drew Reisinger, the county register of deeds, knelt in front of Cartledge and Eve, asking them to leave. He said he would have to ask police to arrest them if they did not.
“We were denied a marriage license, and we are choosing not to leave until we’re served,” Eve said.
The police put handcuffs on their wrists but released them less than an hour later, when they were greeted by a crowd of supporters.
Cartledge and Eve were one of 20 same-sex couples participating in a campaign against laws in North Carolina and across the South that ban same-sex marriage. For two weeks, couples applied for and were denied marriage licenses, and Friday, many went through it a second time. Cartledge and Eve, the first couple to apply on Oct. 3, were the last on Friday.
This time, they didn’t leave when Reisinger apologized and told them he would have to deny their request. Instead, they conducted a sit-in until they were arrested.
But when they walked out of the building, handcuff-free and smiling, they said they were hopeful.
“This wind out here feels like a wind of change,” Cartledge said. “I know that in my lifetime, before I die, I will marry Elizabeth Eve.”
But the state legislature is working to make that a smaller possibility. It’s already illegal, but an amendment recently passed by the N.C. General Assembly would make it harder to legalize same-sex marriage in the future.
Supporters of the amendment, which will be put to a vote in the May primaries, say the actions in Asheville show why traditional marriage needs constitutional protection.
“Certain state lawmakers, gay rights advocates and other supporters will never settle for anything less than the redefinition of what is currently referred to as ‘holy matrimony’ in this state,” Mark Creech, the executive director of the Christian Action League, said in a letter on the organization’s website. “An objective of demonstrations of this order is usually the pre-requisite to the filing of a lawsuit challenging state marriage laws.”
Legal action will follow the protest in Asheville. Meghann Burke, the legal director for the Campaign of Southern Equality, which organized the effort, is representing Cartledge and Eve in court.
“We will resist these laws until they change on the federal level, ensuring that LGBT people in all 50 states are equal under the law,” said Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, executive director of the Campaign for Southern Equality.
Cartledge and Eve said they will wait to marry until their marriage is legal nationwide. Laws must treat everyone equally before people will, they said.
“The changing of laws to provide full civil rights to all people has to come first,” Cartledge said in a speech at a rally Friday. “Then attitudes change, and fear and hate are diluted.”
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