When Dericka and Keisha Hollifield went to the McDowell County Register of Deeds’ Office in Marion, N.C. on Tuesday to request a marriage license, they knew they'd leave empty handed, as the state prohibits marriage for same-sex couples.
But what they didn't expect was a crowd of over 100 marriage equality opponents gathered outside the county courthouse in protest of their action, some carrying signs with religious arguments against marriage equality.
"The Bible is very clear that marriage is between one man and one woman," Ronnie Baity, President of Return America, told local station WLOS. Dan Patton, a protester, said he's sure the couple "love one another, but that still doesn't make it right."
The couple, though, was not without support at the courthouse. Friends and advocates from the Campaign for Southern Equality gathered in a circle for a prayer with the sounds of the opposing rally in the background.
"This is what courage looks like — for Keisha and Dericka and their friends to stand up publicly for equality when there is so much pressure to stay silent, when you are outnumbered by those who are protesting you," said Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, executive director of the Campaign for Southern Equality, in a blog post.
The couple's action was part of the group's WE DO Campaign.
Keisha and Dericka, followed by supporters and press, entered the courthouse hand-in-hand and requested a marriage licenses from Register of Deed Tonia Hampton.
At the counter, the couple handed their driver's licenses to the Hampton, who said they were ineligible for a marriage license because they are a same-sex couple. With that, Hampton would not accept their application and refused to mark it as "DENIED," according to CSE.
The couple exited the courthouse to cheers and applause from their supporters.
"I don't feel that same-sex couples should put me in this position because there's nothing, as local government, that I can do about it," Hampton said in an interview with WLOS.