There are some folks who don’t ‘get’ the reason why we’re fighting for marriage equality. Why can’t y’all just be together and get a lawyer and file papers that legally protect you? Why do you need marriage? Well, those are the questions I would ask a straight person, too; put the shoe on the other foot, so to speak.
But one of the reasons I fight for equality is because of all those people who have come before me, who never saw the chance for it; who never thought they could even be considered equal. People like Mary Burson and Carole Kaiser from North Carolina.
A committed, loving couple, since 1974, they, along with their daughters and their church pastor, walked into the Henderson County Register of Deeds office Wednesday with their photo IDs, Social Security cards, $60 in cash and asked for a marriage license.
"Carole and I are here today to apply for a marriage license, because we love each other, we've been together for 40 years...we've raised eight children together and we want to make the commitment that our brothers and sisters that are heterosexual can make."—Mary Burson
Burson and Kaiser, both 79, had high hopes that Register of Deeds Nedra Moles would do the same as that county clerk in Pennsylvania who has issued 174 marriage licenses to same-sex couples, even though that state — like North Carolina — prohibits same-sex unions.
The two women requested their marriage license as part of a statewide campaign called WE DO, in which more than 80 LGBT couples have requested marriage licenses in their hometown courthouses since 2011. Sadly, so far, none have succeeded in getting one.
Nedra Moles listened as Burson and Kaiser thanked her for an earlier letter she had written them and for considering their request in person.
"Well, consider is about all I can do, because you both know that according to North Carolina law, I cannot issue the marriage license (to same-sex couples). I've made you a copy of the N.C. General Statute, in case you would like to look at it, but I cannot do this today. So, I must turn you down."—Nedra Moles
Burson said that while she understands that North Carolina doesn't allow her to marry Kaiser, she wondered "Is there also a law that says you can't issue a license, even though we couldn't use it?"
Moles replied, "If I went ahead and issued you a license, I would be breaking the law, and I can't do that. That’s the position that I'm in, as well as all of my deputies."
It’s sad she didn’t take that same step as the clerk in Pennsylvania; it would have been a great thing to see these two women, together over forty years, finally become a legally married couple.
Since August 21, same-sex couples in Madison, Forsyth and Guildford counties have also asked their county clerks to overlook state law and issue them a license to marry, and four more couples will attempt the same in Mecklenburg, Buncombe, Transylvania and Cabarrus counties over the next four weeks.
Kim Gallagher and Kathy Kaiser, two of Mary and Carole’s eight children, had come to stand by their parents as they asked for a marriage license. Gallagher said it wasn't easy growing up in a conservative community with two moms, but "they just loved me through it."
"My prayer is that my children will not experience discrimination and that they will open their hearts to diversity, in whatever regard. And I think their grandmothers have taught them how to do that. And how to be brave."—Kim Gallagher
Hopefully their bravery, and the bravery of others who just want simple equality, will be witnessed by the couple’s children and grandchildren one day soon.