Local News

Same-sex couples line up for marriage licenses, adoption papers

Posted October 13, 2014 7:22 a.m. EDT
Updated October 13, 2014 6:12 p.m. EDT

— Same-sex couples streamed into county register of deeds offices across North Carolina Monday to obtain marriage licenses.

A federal judge struck down the state's gay marriage ban late Friday. Although some county register of deeds offices remained open after 5 p.m. on Friday to start issuing licenses – 51 were issued in Wake County – many couples who waited Friday for a ruling legalizing gay marriage in North Carolina had already left by the time the judge's decision came down.

Even though Monday was Columbus Day, which is a federal holiday, county offices were open, meaning register of deeds offices could accommodate couples that showed up for a marriage license. The state has prepared a revised license form that is gender neutral, asking for the names of applicant 1 and applicant 2 instead of husband and wife.

After picking up their licenses at the Wake County Justice Center, many couples headed to magistrate's courtrooms, nearby churches or Nash Square across the street, where a minister was waiting, to get married.

Wake County issued another 37 same-sex licenses Monday, while Orange, Johnston, Chatham, Granville and Wayne counties issued their first licenses to same-sex couples. Officials in other area counties said they hadn't yet had any applicants.

Some couples said their children were the primary reason they wanted to get married or have their marriages from other states recognized in North Carolina.

Craig Johnson and Shawn Long have been together 20 years and have a 12-year-old son, Isaiah. They are one of the families that sued the state to overturn the gay marriage ban and had planned to marry as soon as possible but had to wait until Monday because Johnson was at Isaiah's soccer tournament in South Carolina.

"Now, Isaiah will have two legally recognized parents so that, in the event that something happens to me, Shawn has legal rights," Johnson said. "Shawn is able to make legal decisions (and) medical decisions for Isaiah. That is the crucial thing. That is the most important thing about today."

Chantelle and Marcie Fisher-Borne are another of the families who challenged the gay marriage ban in the courts. They were married in Washington, D.C., a few years ago, and on Monday, they filed petitions in Durham County court to adopt each other's child.

"In the eyes of North Carolina, they are legal strangers to each other," Marcie Fisher-Borne said. "I'm a legal stranger to our son, Chantelle to our daughter, and today, we are going to change that."

The adoption process usually takes 90 days, but the family's attorney said they plan to request a rush and likely will get it completed in a few weeks.

"We've been married in our hearts for a long time. It's about time the state catch up to honor and respect our families," Chantelle Fisher-Borne said.

Not everyone is pleased about their new-found rights. Rev. Patrick Wooden, pastor of Upper Room Church of God in Christ in Raleigh, said children need both a mother and a father.

"I personally do not believe that moms and dads are optional. I think they are essential to the make-up of a family," Wooden said.

Republican legislative leaders are trying to keep North Carolina's gay marriage ban in place. A federal judge in Greensboro is hearing their effort to intervene in another same-sex marriage case.

"It feels like it's the end, but there's always that nagging will there be some other legal challenge," Long said, explaining the desire of many same-sex couples to marry as quickly as possible.