Couples rush to altar before US Supreme Court takes up gay marriage issue
Posted November 7, 2014
Raleigh, N.C. — A ruling upholding gay marriage bans in Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee set off a rush for marriage licenses Friday among same-sex couples in Wake County.
Although federal judges in Greensboro and Asheville overturned North Carolina's ban on gay marriage last month after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to address a similar ban in Virginia that was found to be unconstitutional, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling on Thursday raises the possibility that the Supreme Court could soon take up the issue of same-sex marriage.
"To have something like this happen, it's inevitable that people are going to think we better do something quickly to be able to protect our families," said Jerry Windle, who obtained a marriage license and exchanged vows with Andres Rodriguez on Friday.
"We've waited a lot of years for us to be able to be legally married," Windle said.
Likewise, Shannon Brooks and Amber Coe didn't want to wait until next spring, when they're planning a big wedding ceremony, to make it legal.
"Whenever we heard the news, we were just, 'Let's go,'" Brooks said. "We were trying to hurry it up in case anything does happen."
The 6th Circuit ruling gives opponents of same-sex marriage ammunition as they appeal prior rulings. Four other appellate courts, including the 4th Circuit in Richmond, Va., which has jurisdiction over North Carolina, have ruled in favor of gay marriage in recent months.
"This is an issue that should be left to the people of each state," said Tami Fitzgerald, executive director of NC Values Coalition, which backed the 2012 voter-approved amendment to the North Carolina constitution that defined marriage as a union between one man and one woman.
"It's totally irrational to decide that federal courts should take this out of the hands of voters," Fitzgerald said.
Republican lawmakers are pushing forward with their own appeal to preserve the North Carolina marriage amendment after Attorney General Roy Cooper said the 4th Circuit ruling made it impossible to continue defending the amendment.
"This appeal marks an important step in fulfilling our promise that the values of our state are defended and the voice of voters is heard," Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger said in a statement.