PHOTOS: Same-sex couples take a stand against Amendment 1 in North Carolina

Yesterday, exactly two years after the passage of Amendment One, the constitutional amendment in North Carolina that bans same-sex couples from marrying or attaining any form of family status in the state, same-sex couples took a stand for equality in Raleigh.

In an action by the Campaign for Southern Equality, nine same-sex couples, surrounded by nearly one hundred supporters of the freedom to marry, entered the Wake County Justice Building and shared their stories of why marriage matters and how Amendment 1 hurts their families. Meet the great couples HERE.

It's part of the We Do campaign, which CSE has been leading for more than two years now, organizing more than 40 different actions in cities across the South - from Mississippi to South Carolina to Georgia. More than 120 same-sex couples have taken action with CSE. 

By recording their marriage license from another state or applying for a marriage license and provoking a denial, these nine couples made the point that laws like Amendment One hurt real people and present real problems for North Carolina families. 

Yesterday, these couples and nearly one hundred other supporters in North Carolina gathered in the morning at the LGBT Center in Raleigh.

There, Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, executive director of CSE, spoke out about why this day - May 8th - was so significant in North Carolina. Listen:

Before heading to the Justice Building, everyone held hands in prayer and then huddled in the center of the room for a We Do tradition. "Do you believe people have the power to change the world?" Lindsey Simerly, campaign manager of CSE, asked everyone. "We do!" the crowd responded before applauding and cheering.

In a silent, reflective procession, the We Do couples, support team, and many members of the clergy, began the four-block walk to the justice building.

The support team included family members, friends, and even some couples who have already participated in We Do actions, like Barb and Ann (below), who have been together for 32 years and live in Durham, NC. 

Along the way, other marriage supporters in Raleigh joined the procession. Inside the building, an inscription from the NC Constitution next to the County seal seemed to echo the central thesis of the We Do campaign: "All Courts shall be open...and right and justice shall be administered without favor, denial or delay."

""We hope that some day soon, the laws in our state begin protecting us rather than harming us." - TJ Price-O'Neil

At the Register of Deeds, six couples recorded their marriage licenses, paying $26 and making a public record of their love, declaring simply and irrefutably that there are legally married same-sex couples living in North Carolina. First up were TJ and Justine, who are celebrating their daughter Prestyn's second birthday next month.

TJ spoke with the county clerk while recording her license, sharing all of the ways that Amendment 1 complicates her family's life together. She explained that she is not allowed to share her health benefits through her job as a 9th grade English teacher with her wife Justine. She must fight to be recognized as a family. And perhaps most critically, she cannot legally adopt her own daughter.

Next up was Chris, whose husband Jeff is currently deployed in the U.S. Navy. Chris explained to the clerk that while his marriage is respected while he's on the military base where he lives in Jacksonville, NC - since the federal government respects his marriage - he is seen as single, and denied a wide range of responsibilities and protections, by the state of North Carolina.

He was followed by Carlie and Tiffany, together for more than 5 years.

"We don't want our children - or children anywhere in the future - to feel the injustice that we feel here every day."- Carlie Fink-Maddux

"We're in the process of having a baby, and when that happens, we would like to be able to both adopt our children," Carlie said. "We don't want our children - or children anywhere in the future - to feel the injustice that we feel here every day."

By their side, Doug and Sandy, together for more than 12 years, also recorded their love. "We're here with our daughter and granddaughter," Doug said. "And we hope that one day, they'll never have to be discriminated like we are."

Jeff and Dave, together for more than 25 years, were up next. Dave is a county employee, and he spoke with the clerk about how challenging it is to not be able to share with Jeff the protections that his employer provides for all other families.

Paula and Jane were the last couple to record their marriage license, and as they did, they shared their story: "We're here to let people know that this isn't just a law on paper. This affects real people and does real damage. We're just like everybody else: We're your friends, your neighbors, your co-workers, your church members. We know that one day, North Carolina will recognize that and we're today - on this day - to move us one step forward to that day when everybody will be treated equally and with respect."

Next, three couples requested licenses and provoked denials to demonstrate what those laws look like - and how they feel - when they are enforced. First, Dennis and Clifton applied. "We really want to make our relationship official and receive the same benefits and privileges that heterosexual couples who marry receive," Dennis said, standing resolute and saying, "We'll be back when the law changes." (Below, Rev. Petty comforts Dennis and Clifton after they are denied a marriage license)

Judy and Megan were next up, followed by Sarah and Carol, who have been close for 20 years. Listen to Judy's interaction with the clerk:

Afterward, the support team members and couples recessed from the courthouse, singing in a round:

"We're not backing down / One step closer now
/ As long as it takes / Love won't be denied."

And finally, they closed the action by speaking outside the courthouse on the power of personal story. "We must stand up and say this is who we are," Rev. Beach-Ferrara said.

The action underlined a theme expressed earlier in the day - yes, the courts are currently considering cases seeking the freedom to marry in North Carolina - and in 30 other states across the country. But that doesn't mean that there isn't still important work to do to show the courts that the state - that the entire nation - is ready for the freedom to marry.

"Our role is not to sit on the sidelines and wait for court rulings," Rev. Beach-Ferrara said. "Our role is to stand up in the public square and share our stories. The ultimate truths of our lives will prevail over Amendment 1."

Special thanks to Tracy Callahan for beautiful, hi-res photos

Learn more about the Campaign for Southern Equality