Now they’re arresting gay and lesbian North Carolinians participating in civil disobedience actions and seeking marriage licenses
May 11, 2012
By Scottie Thomaston
Headline changed to make it absolutely clear what is happening.
Less than eight hours after the passage of anti-gay Amendment 1 in North Carolina, local jurisdictions were trying to eliminate domestic partner benefits. This and other consequences that were discussed repeatedly during the campaign will continue to occur over the years. Despite promises by the proponents that the amendment will keep the issue out of the courts, the amendment’s language seems to create a situation where it is inevitable the issue will make its way to a decision in North Carolina state courts sooner rather than later.
Counter-actions have begun, as well. On May 9, a civil disobedience campaign started, in which gay and lesbian citizens of North Carolina asked state offices for marriage licenses:
Starting the morning of May 9, we will run the next stage of the WE DO Campaign in eight communities across North Carolina, from small towns with populations of less than 500 to cities of more than one million. Across the state, over 40 LGBT couples will request marriage licenses, knowing they will be turned down and yet taking this action in order to resist unjust laws and call for full federal equality. They will be joined by hundreds of family members, friends, clergy, and elected officials who will stand with them in support. In select towns, trained volunteers will conduct peaceful sit-ins after the denials of marriage licenses occur, as a form of civil disobedience. At every turn, we will express love and empathy towards those who oppose LGBT rights and those whose job it is to enforce unjust laws.
This is similar to other direct action campaigns in the past, and in those other states arrests followed, as has just happened in North Carolina:
(AP) WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – A lesbian who sought a North Carolina marriage license with her partner and was rejected under a state law banning same-sex marriage was arrested with another person Thursday after they refused to leave a government office where several gay and lesbian couples were turned away.
Mary Jamis, 52, of Mocksville, and a heterosexual friend who joined the protest, Mary Lea Bradford of Winston-Salem, were arrested after they blocked the entrance to the marriage license office and refused to leave more than 30 minutes after closing time.
A county administrator tried to talk the women into leaving and avoiding arrest, but the two insisted they would stay unless Jamis was issued a marriage license for her and her partner, Starr Johnson, 48.
A half dozen female officers then crowded around Jamis and Bradford, who were seated. The officers asked them to stand, handcuffed them and led them out a side door and into a van to be booked at the county sheriff’s department across the street.
I’m not totally sure what’s so harmful about a loving couple expressing interest in receiving a marriage license from the state. Certainly it doesn’t seem like grounds to face intimidation by a crowd of cops and county administrators. This campaign will hopefully raise a lot of awareness about just what marriage equality would entail. And it will put public faces on the often fiction-based discussions of gays and lesbians that continue to happen across the South. The image of a peaceful citizen being dragged off in handcuffs for trying to get married is as powerful as it is depressing.
Pam Spaulding has the dates of the next actions:
The WE DO campaign has these next stops in North Carolina, where more arrests are expected:
May 11th in Mitchell County (Bakersville) – 9:00 a.m.
May 11th in Madison County (Marshall) – 12:00 p.m.
May 11th in Asheville – 3:00 p.m.
May 14th in Asheboro – 9:30 a.m.
May 15th in Charlotte – 3:00 p.m.
Her piece also has a list of things out-of-state allies can do if they want to help.