Inspired by the register of wills in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania – Bruce Hanes – the Campaign for Southern Equality has decided to seek county clerks in Southern states who are willing to give marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
Before now, the campaign has worked with gay couples who go to their local clerks and ask for a license, expecting they’ll be turned down. They’ll keep doing that, says campaign director Lindsey Simerly. But now, behind the scenes, the campaign is actively negotiating with clerks who are open to saying yes. The idea is that they would make the same argument Hanes is making in Pennsylvania, namely that after the DOMA decision, the state ban on marriage equality no longer fits with the U.S. Constitution. Simerly says of their search for a clerk:
We’re hoping that there’s somebody out there who’s willing to do that and take the lead. We recognize that it’s a really big risk for them. They could lose their job. They’re weighing the risk. But I think there are several that really want to do it.
Simerly says the clerks they’ve talked to so far are North Carolina registers of deeds, an elected office.
In Pennsylvania, the Democratic attorney general has declined to defend her state’s ban on same-sex couples marrying; the Republican governor is challenging Hanes. North Carolina also has a Democratic attorney general, who recently allowed the expansion of a suit in his state to include the question of marriage rights. In the last legislative session, North Carolina Republicans voted themselves the right to defend state laws if the attorney general decided not to.
Below, the Campaign for Southern Equality’s video about their search for a clerk.