In an announcement Wednesday, the Campaign for Southern Equality said couples are recording out-of-state marriage licenses at local Register of Deeds offices - which creates a public record. The group said the intent is to highlight the reality that the couples are legally married in the eyes of the federal government - even if the unions aren't recognized in North Carolina.
Durham couple Barb Goldstein and Ann Willoughby said they registered their license from New York on Tuesday.
"By registering our marriage license with the Durham County Register of Deeds, we are making a statement that again demonstrates our love and long-term commitment. We have great hope that in the not so distant future, our marriage will be viewed as no different from anyone else's in the state," they said.
Couples affiliated with The Campaign for Southern Equality are also applying for marriage licenses in their hometowns, asking elected officials to issue them a marriage license as an act of conscience.
Tami Fitzgerald, executive director of the North Carolina Values Coalition, has sharply criticized the Campaign for Southern Equality, saying it's "waging guerrilla warfare."
"I caution the state's registers of deeds that any recognition of a same-sex union is a violation of North Carolina's state constitution," Fitzgerald said.
North Carolina state law had already banned gay marriage, but voters in 2012 approved the constitutional amendment defining marriage solely as a union between a man and a woman.
The issue became more complicated after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June that the federal government can't refuse gay couples equal rights if they've been married in states that recognize same-sex marriage.
Fourteen states and the District of Columbia permit same-sex marriages.
After paying a fee to officially register their out-of-state marriage license at a county Register of Deeds, the document will be available for anyone to look up at the office, but they will not be granted any additional state rights.