Activists seek same-sex marriage rights in 'unwinnable' U.S. South
By Colleen Jenkins
WINSTON-SALEM, North Carolina (Reuters) - Same-sex couples stood at government counters in two North Carolina cities on Monday to ask for marriage licenses they knew they would be denied, part of a push across the U.S. South this month to demand equality even where opposition runs deep.
"We have to leave our home state to get married, so that's a little sad," said L. Rankin, 45, after the assistant register of deeds in her city of Winston-Salem refused a license to her and partner Kristin Hedin, 38.
Couples braved rain and potential ridicule to join the "We Do Campaign," an effort by the nonprofit Campaign for Southern Equality to protest state laws activists believe to be unjust and to call for full equality under federal law.
As part of the campaign, couples in seven Southern states are applying for marriage licenses in January. At the final stop on Thursday, couples expect to be denied licenses in Arlington, Virginia, before marching to Washington, D.C., where same-sex marriage is legal.
Participants say they want their neighbors and lawmakers to know they aren't going away, even if taking a stand can be uncomfortable and risky in a part of the country known for its strong religious ties and history of racial discrimination.
"The South has been written off as being unwinnable when it comes to LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) rights," said Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, executive director of the Campaign for Southern Equality and a United Church of Christ minister.
"One of the unintended consequences of that is that LGBT people also get written off," she said.
Gay rights activists billed 2012 as a watershed year after voters in Maine, Maryland and Washington state approved same-sex marriage, and President Barack Obama became the first U.S. president to declare support for such unions. Continued...