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Protest against North Carolina marriage amendment leads to arrest

The passage of North Carolina's constitutional amendment defining marriage as solely between a man and a woman has sparked protests across the state, sometimes resulting in criminal charges. In Winston-Salem earlier this month, a lesbian who applied for a marriage license was arrested along with a friend for refusing to leave a government office.

The woman's arrest on a misdemeanor charge came one day after President Barack Obama endorsed same-sex marriage, and only two days after Amendment One was passed. Gay rights groups have planned protests at other county offices that issue marriage licenses. At least nine gay and lesbian couples brought completed marriage license applications to Winston-Salem's register of deeds office, but were turned away.

Many gay and lesbian couples applying for licenses have left peacefully, unwilling to stir up legal trouble by getting arrested. But a woman who chose to protest with a heterosexual friend decided to block the entrance to the marriage license office, refusing to leave more than half an hour after the office had closed. Although an administrator urged them to leave to avoid being arrested, they insisted on staying until the lesbian and her partner were issued a license. Ultimately they were handcuffed, arrested and charged with second-degree trespass and released without bond.

Whether you're protesting Amendment 1 or any other issue, you should know your rights if you're arrested for standing up for what you believe in. Although charges associated with nonviolent protests are often misdemeanors, they do affect your criminal record and carry some penalties, often in the form of large fines. A defense attorney who focuses on the types of charges that result from protesting can assist you with your case and help you avoid the most damaging repercussions.

Source: NBC 17, "Lesbian seeking marriage license arrested in Winston-Salem," Emery P. Dalesio, May 11, 2012

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