March 4, 2015

Thomas and Carol Ann Person Were Turned Away by Forsyth County Magistrates in 1970s Who Objected to their Marriage on Religious Grounds; S.B. 2 Would Legalize Same Treatment

March 4, 2015

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: 212-549-2666, media@aclu.org

RALEIGH – Almost 40 years after two Forsyth County magistrates refused to perform their civil marriage ceremony by citing religious objections, Thomas and Carol Ann Person, an interracial couple from North Carolina, are now speaking out against proposed legislation that would allow magistrates to refuse marriage services to any couple if they voice a religious objection.

Senate Bill 2, which is scheduled to be heard by the House Judiciary I committee today, would allow sworn government officials to refuse to provide marriage services to couples based on what the bill calls “sincerely held religious” beliefs.

“Nobody has a right to tell anyone who they can marry,” said Carol Ann. “I will never forget how painful it was to be told by government officials that they would not give Thomas and me a civil marriage ceremony because of the color of our skin. It was supposed to be a happy day, but instead we were turned away because of someone else’s religious views and treated like second-class citizens. I hope those lawmakers in Raleigh stop Senate Bill 2 so that no other couple in North Carolina ever has to go through what we did when they want to marry the person they love.”

Thomas and Carol Ann, who are both legally blind, met in Raleigh and moved to Winston-Salem to work for the Industries for the Blind in the 1970s. Thomas proposed to Carol Ann in 1976, and the two eventually went to their local courthouse to receive a civil marriage ceremony. Instead, they were turned away by two magistrates who said their religious beliefs prohibited them from marrying a black man and a white woman. In 1977, a federal court ordered a magistrate to perform their marriage, and the two magistrates who originally refused were ordered to pay legal fees. The couple now lives in Robbins, North Carolina.

The Persons were recently profiled by the High Point Enterprise: http://www.hpenews.com/news/x43877339/Controversy-about-religious-objection-to-marriage-once-focused-on-race

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