Couple of 40 years takes a stand for marriage in North Carolina

On Wednesday, two women who have been together for over 40 years applied for a marriage license in North Carolina, seeking to have their lifelong commitment respected by their home state. The women, Mary Burson and Carole Kaiser, both 79 years old, requested a license as part of a peaceful action with the Campaign for Southern Equality, the NC-based organization working to elevate the conversation about why marriage matters throughout the south. The women have been living in Hendersonville, North Carolina since 2003, having moved there after years of living together in Park Ridge, Illinois, and they were excited and honored to be taking a stand for the freedom to marry. 

In the days leading up to the CSE action, Mary and Carole submitted a letter to Nedra W. Moles, the Register of Deeds for Henderson County. Mary wrote, "Carole Kaiser and I have been in relationship for 40 years. We helped raise eight children together and today enjoy the blessing of having 13 grandchildren. We would like to celebrate our commitment to each other and to our families in marriage. We feel that we have earned all the benefits that are bestowed by the United States of America and the state of North Carolina on married couples. Our commitment has been no less than that of a married couple."

During the action, at Henderson County Courthouse Mary explained, "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."

Same-sex couples in North Carolina do not have the freedom to marry, and under Amendment One, passed in 2012 at the ballot, they are denied all of the protections of marriage or any form of family status - including domestic partnership or civil union. Moles cited this law when she spoke with Mary and Carole, denying them a marriage license. 

The women requested the license alongisde dozens of members of the Campaign for Southern Equality. The group marched in a processional together to the court house.

And after they were denied their license, the CSE supporters circled together outside of the courthouse in solidarity. Many of the supporters came from the First Congregational Church in Hendersonville, where Mary and Carole attend services. 

Two of their daughters, Kim Gallagher and Kathy Kaiser, joined in the action, standing by to support the freedom to marry for their mothers - and for all North Carolinans. Kim told Blue Ridge Now why standing beside her moms was important to her. She said, "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."

In the past few years, the United States has taken many steps toward the freedom to marry for same-sex couples, moving marriage forward again and again. And now, it's time for marriage in North Carolina and across the south. Courageous couples like Mary and Carole are taking a stand in their home community and forcing their elected officials to present them with a real reason that their commitment should not be respected by their state. They are saying "We Do," and they are explaining why marriage matters to them. They are showing that their live and their commitment deserves the same respect and dignity as the love and commitment that all other couples share. 

Learn more about the Campaign for Southern Equality HERE.