Local News

Same-sex couples marry across NC

Posted October 11, 2014 10:02 p.m. EDT
Updated October 11, 2014 10:55 p.m. EDT

— Same-sex couples across the state united in marriage Saturday, just one day after a federal court judge in Asheville overturned a constitutional ban, allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry in North Carolina.

U.S. District Court Judge Max Cogburn's ruling came five days after the nation's top court declined to hear any appeal of a July decision by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond striking down Virginia's ban. That court has jurisdiction over North Carolina.

The Tar Heel state is now among 29 in the country, plus Washington, D.C., where same-sex marriage is legal.

The Register of Deeds Office in Wake County stayed open until 9 p.m. Friday, issuing 51 marriage licenses. Extra magistrates were on hand to marry, and outside, members of the clergy made themselves available as well. On Saturday, the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Raleigh offered free wedding services.

But, while many couples joined hands in marriage, the public's opinion remained divided.

"If you asked me if I'm married, I hope you would understand that I'm married to a woman," said Joseph Bynum. "It is the decent thing to do."

Two years ago, North Carolinians voted in favor of a constitutional amendment that defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman. Some Triangle residents feel as though Friday's decision was an affront to those voters.

"It's not their place to decide what's right or wrong after the voters voted for it to be that way," said Connie Welch.

Several members of the gay community said the ban only served to exclude and dehumanize.

"I think people think that by gay people getting married that it ruins marriage for the rest of them," said John Knox. "Being a gay man living in North Carolina, I would like the opportunity to get married one day."

A judge in Greensboro plans to rule Monday on whether state Republican leaders can intervene in a case to try to defend the constitutional amendment.

In a joint statement Friday evening, Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, and House Speaker Thom Tillis, R-Mecklenburg, vowed to continue to fight for the voters who approved Amendment One.

"While we recognize the tremendous passion on all sides of this issue, we promised to defend the will of North Carolina voters, because they – not judges and not politicians – define marriage as between one man and one woman and placed that in our state constitution," they said.