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Couple denied marriage ceremony in Forsyth Co. decades ago thinks history is repeating itself

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Thomas Roger Person and his wife, Carol Ann Person, in their Robbins, NC, home, Friday, March 6, 2015. (David Rolfe/Journal)

By Scott Sexton/The Winston-Salem Journal

ROBBINS, N.C. — Carol Ann Figueroa had no intention of starting a movement, getting her picture on TV or becoming a plaintiff in a federal civil rights lawsuit. She just wanted to get married.

But thanks to a pair of backward-thinking Forsyth County magistrates, it became more complicated than that. The reason? It was 1976, and her fiancé, Thomas Person, was black. She was white. And one after the other, two magistrates refused to marry the couple on religious grounds.

“One recited the Lord’s Prayer to the other one and recited a verse from Genesis (6:20) about fowl being with fowl, cattle being with cattle, and everything of the earth being with its kind,” said Figueroa, 63, who goes by her married name — Carol Ann Person. “I was flabbergasted. I just didn’t know what to say.”

The U.S. Supreme Court in 1967 had invalidated state bans on interracial marriages, so the law was on their side. Eventually, she was able to marry Thomas, and they began their lives together.

Now, though, the Persons find themselves reliving that experience as state officials are once again citing religion, this time as a basis for refusing to marry gay couples.

Read full column: The Winston-Salem Journal