No help from N.C. health dept. as counties prep for gay marriage

Wake County register, statewide advocacy group ask DHHS to release new gender-neutral marriage license forms

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — North Carolina county registers of deeds are preparing to make marriage licenses available to same-sex couples as soon as the inevitable decision to open legal marriage to LGBT people is handed down. But, assistance from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) is so far lacking.

In Mecklenburg County, Register of Deeds J. David Granberry said Tuesday he’s ready whenever the courts are.

“If it came down to it, we could just scratch out anything generally and put something else if we have to,” Granberry said. “As soon as the order comes down, we’ll issue licenses whether they are properly set up or not.”

Granberry is also currently working with a vendor to get updated forms which would do away with “male” and “female” applicant spaces and replace them with gender-neutral titles like “applicant one” and “applicant two.”

Those gender-neutral forms already exist and DHHS has already created them, according to Wake County Wake County Register of Deeds Laura Riddick.

Riddick has asked the state health department to release the new, gender-neutral forms.

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Chris Sgro, executive director of statewide LGBT advocacy group Equality North Carolina, did the same thing at a morning press conference in Charlotte.

“We know that several registers are moving quickly to update marriage license forms to get ready for day one of marriage equality here in North Carolina,” Sgro said outside of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center. “While it is our belief that the court order will bind registers to begin issuing licenses the very first day when it comes down, we are also calling on Governor McCrory and Secretary Aldona Wos at DHHS to get updated forms that we know exist to county registers now so they have what they need on the first day of equality.”

DHHS, though, doesn’t seem quite ready to help.

“DHHS is aware of the Supreme Court decision and will monitor how it may be applied in several pending cases that involve North Carolina’s marriage law,” read a statement from the department to qnotes.

There was no response to follow-ups asking directly if DHHS was willing to begin distribution of the new forms.

North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper, however, has told local officials to ready themselves for an influx of same-sex couples. An order finally striking down the state’s anti-LGBT marriage amendment is expected “relatively soon,” he said.

Greensboro federal district court Judge William Osteen yesterday asked lawyers involved in two marriage cases to submit briefs within the next 10 days. Osteen and legal experts agree he’ll be obligated to follow a July ruling striking down Virginia’s similar anti-LGBT marriage ban from the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which includes North Carolina. Two other cases — one in Charlotte and one in Asheville — have also challenged the state’s amendment.

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Posted by Matt Comer

Matt Comer previously served as editor from October 2007 through August 2015 and as a staff writer afterward in 2016.