Special Coverage: Read our latest special coverage of the historic first full day of legal marriage equality in Charlotte.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Same-sex couples across North Carolina lined up for marriage licenses this morning — the first full day when they could do so following a judge’s order on Friday striking down the state’s anti-LGBT constitutional amendment.
In Charlotte, more than a dozen couples had lined up at the Mecklenburg County Register of Deeds office at a not-so-bright and early 7:15 a.m. Forty-five minutes later, cheers erupted as sheriff’s deputies unlocked the doors and allowed couples to enter.
Terrence Hall and Christopher DeCaria were first in line. Together for five years, they wanted the opportunity to marry as soon as they could. After receiving their license, they exited the register’s office and were married in the plaza.
Also among the first to receive their license was Glenda Lawson and Julie Treadway. They have also been together for five years and they had a formal ceremony in 2011, but never went out of state to legally wed.
“Our kids wouldn’t have been able to be a part of it,” Treadway said.
Lawson said, “We never thought this would have happened in our lifetime ever never.”
Scott Lindsley officiated Hall’s and Decaria’s wedding. Lindsley and his now-spouse Joey Hewell had waited for the judge’s order at the register’s office for half of last week. Hewell and Lindsley also wed outside the register’s office Monday morning. As they’d waited for the ruling last week, the couple had said they intended on having a ceremony in the next couple months. They changed their minds after thinking about it over the weekend fearing an appeal or other attempts to block marriage by state Republican leaders.
At closing time, Mecklenburg Register J. David Granberry said he’d issued 86 marriage licenses on Monday. The previous record in a single day was 63. At least 62 of the 86 licenses were issued to same-sex couples, of which 35 were married today.
“It was more than typical,” Granberry said. “We usually get very few instant returns. These people are excited.”
Advocates on the ground praised what they called a momentous day.
“The HRC is thrilled to be working with Equality NC and local organizations,” said Human Rights Campaign board member Shelly Schoenfeld. “This day is obviously monumental and very impactful, but there is much more that we and other organizations need to do to continue the work in the fight for equality in terms of discrimination, specifically workplace equality and healthcare equality.”
Three anti-LGBT protesters were present outside the register’s office, including well-known street preacher and convicted stalker Flip Benham. He interrupted several couples’ weddings as supporters held up a large rainbow flag to block his view.
Another protester waved a bible in the air as he screamed several profanities and vulgarities. He was asked by sheriff’s deputies to tone it down or leave. He opted for the latter.
Despite the protesters, those gathered celebrated at each of the several weddings held outside the register’s office.
Those celebrations will continue on Monday evening. Couples and LGBT community members in Charlotte will hold an interfaith celebration of marriage equality with several plaintiffs from the United Church of Christ’s and other clergy members’ suit against the amendment expected to attend. The service is slated for 7 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 13 at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, 1900 The Plaza.
All counties issuing licenses
As of Monday morning, all 100 counties in North Carolina were issuing licenses to same-sex couples. Over the weekend, Iredell County Register of Deeds Matt McCall had said he might not issue the licenses, requesting special notice from North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper or other state officials.
The notice came late Sunday evening in an email to all 100 county registers of deeds from officials at the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Service.
McCall said he wanted to wait for special notice because of the 73 percent of voters in in Iredell County who voted for the state’s anti-gay ban in 2012.
“When something passes by a three-to-one margin, you want to make sure their voices are heard,” McCall told the Statesville Record & Landmark Monday morning.
“I will be issuing marriage licenses to all applicants,” McCall said after receiving the health department email. “This is the confirmation I’ve been waiting for.”
Cooper and North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory had both over the weekend said the judge’s ruling applied statewide. McCrory also said his administration was moving forward with executing the order.
Republican leaders, though, remain opposed to same-sex marriages. House Speaker Thom Tillis told The Charlotte Observer at a media appearance on Monday morning that he intends to continue defending the ruling.
“I’ve sworn to uphold the laws of North Carolina. That’s a vote that 60 percent of the folks that voted 28 months ago decided they wanted as part of our Constitution,” Tillis said. “We’re going to continue to pursue the case through the circuit court and are very disappointed that the attorney general doesn’t seem to think that he needs to do his job on this matter. But we’re going to continue to advocate for the citizens of North Carolina through the courts process.”
— CAMERON JOYCE CONTRIBUTED.