CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Friday’s ruling overturning North Carolina’s anti-LGBT constitutional amendment meant dozens of marrying couples in Greensboro, Asheville and Raleigh. But, the order came too late for couples in Mecklenburg County and most others across the state.
That will change at 8 a.m. on Monday, when the Mecklenburg County Register of Deeds office opens and begins processing marriage license applications from all couples.
Among those who will be present are three couples from Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, including Cathy Fry and Joanne Marinaro, one of the same-sex couple plaintiffs in the lawsuit decided Friday by U.S. District Court Judge Max O. Cogburn, Jr.
The Rev. Nancy Kraft, Holy Trinity’s pastor, plans to be with Fry and Marinaro and the two other couples, each of which have children. Kraft will marry all three couples right on the spot. The weekend wait for Fry and Marinaro is likely more relief than an anxiety — the couple has already been together for 30 years.
Charlotte couple Joey Hewell and Scott Lindsley will also be at the register’s office, just as they were for three days this week. The two will have an opportunity to finally complete their marriage license application, which Mecklenburg Register of Deeds J. David Granberry allowed them to begin on Wednesday afternoon. The two say they’ll plan to be married in a ceremony with friends and family in the next couple months.
Charlotte celebrated quietly on Friday
The couples’ weekend wait came after Mecklenburg’s marriage license office closed as normal at 5 p.m. Granberry had said a local ordinance required him to close at that time and only a vote from the Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners could have allowed him to stay open later.
But, neither was there any pressure for Granberry or Mecklenburg officials to stay open or reopen after the court’s ruling. Despite having the state’s largest LGBT community, a relatively smaller crowd and far fewer couples than those seen lined up in Buncombe, Wake and Guilford counties had gathered to await the ruling in Charlotte.
In Greensboro, Guilford County Register of Deeds Jeff Thigpen cited the line of couples as his reason for reopening his office after its normal close of business.
“We had a federal judicial order of the likes that hasn’t come down in a generation and we had a lot of people who wanted to come in and get a license to get married and spend the rest of their lives with someone that they love,” Thigpen told Greensboro’s WFMY.
Thigpen added: “We needed to be here and we needed to serve them and as you can tell, the energy and the emotion here is electric.”
It might have helped that several local elected officials, including Greensboro Mayor Nancy Vaughan, were also present in support of the couples. In Charlotte, only one elected official — state Sen. Jeff Jackson — showed up.
Evening celebrations in Charlotte were also small. About a dozen people gathered at Independence Square at Trade & Tryon yesterday evening while a small crowd of Human Rights Campaign and Equality North Carolina supporters gathered for celebratory toasts at Cathode Azure, a local LGBT nightlife establishment.
The celebrations might be larger on Monday morning. In addition to Kraft and her congregation’s three couples, several other couples might begin lining up at the Mecklenburg register’s office at 8 a.m. Additionally, some non-religious officiants are also planning to be present. Advocacy groups are also encouraging their members to be present in support of the couples.
Register: Apply online before you come
Mecklenburg County is encouraging couples to file their application online before coming to the office to complete the process.
“It is strongly recommended that applicants take advantage of the online application to reduce office processing time,” the county said in a statement issued Friday evening.
The statement continued: “The application includes a disclaimer page. Residents should simply click ‘agree’ to go directly to the license page. Couples are instructed to ignore gender references on the online application. The printed versions of the license in the office will refer to the couple as Applicant 1 and Applicant 2.”
Other counties have similar online applications. Click here for a full directory of locations, websites and other information.