Marriage in North Carolina: ‘Hurry up and wait’

Check out our full Oct. 24-Nov. 6 print edition commemorating the historic moments as marriage equality came to North Carolina.

The race to full LGBT marriage equality in North Carolina was a whirlwind — often punctuated by long waits and spurts of breaking news. But, when it finally came, almost everyone was unanimous: it happened faster than most could have ever imagined.

Over nearly two weeks, the long journey toward marriage equality was completed. Here’s the historic timeline, through our press time. Take a peek back into the archives of our special coverage for more details: goqnotes.com/to/marriagenc/.

Morning, Monday, Oct. 6 — The U.S. Supreme Court declines to hear an appellate case striking down Virginia’s anti-LGBT constitutional amendment, opening full marriage equality to same-sex couples there and in several other states where similar cases were also denied a Supreme Court hearing.

Morning, Wednesday, Oct. 8 — Joey Hewell and Scott Lindsley head to the Mecklenburg County Register of Deeds office, the first Charlotte same-gender couple to wait it out on the steps of the county courthouse office building.

Evening, Wednesday, Oct. 8 — North Carolina Middle U.S. District Court Judge William Osteen lifts stays which had put two ACLU of North Carolina suits challenging the state’s amendment on hold.

- - - advertisement - - -

Morning, Thursday, Oct. 9 — Hewell and Lindsley return to the Register of Deeds office, along with a gaggle of local media as legal observers and advocates say a ruling could be imminent.

Afternoon, Thursday, Oct. 9 — Local media outlets continue to show up at the Mecklenburg register’s office as state Republican leaders Thom Tillis and Phil Berger file motions asking Osteen to let them intervene in continued defense of the constitutional ban.

Evening, Thursday, Oct. 9 — Osteen denies a request from Tillis and Berger asking for an eight-day extension in order to file a completed motion to intervene. The GOP leaders hire attorneys affiliated with the anti-LGBT National Organization for Marriage, the 2012 North Carolina amendment campaign’s single-largest donor.

Noon, Friday, Oct. 10 — As interest in the wait for equality grows, so, too, does the presence of same-gender couples and local media. Hewell and Lindsley are again at the register’s office, joined later and briefly by two other couples, when Tillis and Berger again attempt delay and request oral arguments before the court.

4 p.m., Friday Oct. 10 — Osteen denies Tillis’ and Berger’s request for oral arguments and gives plaintiffs in the two ACLU cases until Monday, Oct. 13 to reply to several further legal questions. Attention at the register’s office dies down as observers conclude no ruling will be issued before the close of business.

5 p.m., Friday, Oct. 10 — In a surprise move on a case largely silent throughout the week, Western North Carolina U.S. District Court Judge Max Cogburn issues his order striking down the state’s anti-LGBT marriage ban shortly after 5 p.m., deciding in a lawsuit filed by the United Church of Christ and other religious denominations, clergy and same-sex couples. The order comes too late for marriage licenses to be issued in Charlotte, where the Mecklenburg Register of Deeds office is already closed.

Evening, Friday, Oct. 10 — Registers of Deeds offices in Buncombe, Guilford and Wake counties remain open or hurriedly reopen after learning of Cogburn’s order. Dozens of marriage licenses are issued in the three counties, which also witness the state’s first legal same-gender marriages. North Carolina GOP leaders hire yet another anti-gay attorney to represent them.

Saturday, Oct. 11 — Iredell County Register of Deeds Matt McCall says he will not issue marriage licenses to same-gender couples until receiving special directives from state officials.

Sunday, Oct. 12 — State officials in the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services send notices to all 100 registers of deeds informing them of the change in North Carolina marriage law.

7 a.m., Monday, Oct. 13 — More than a dozen same-gender couples line up at the Mecklenburg County Register of Deeds office awaiting their chance to receive marriage licenses.

- - - advertisement - - -

8 a.m., Monday, Oct. 13 — The Mecklenburg register’s office opens to cheers of the couples and supporters waiting outside. By 11 a.m., the marriage license office has issued at least 25 licenses to same-gender couples, with several immediately returned after couples wed on the courthouse office building’s plaza. Similar scenes are witnessed across the state, though a magistrate in eastern North Carolina’s Pasquotank County refuses to marry a gay couple.

Afternoon, Monday, Oct. 13 — Plaintiffs in two ACLU cases submit their questions to Osteen’s legal questions.

5 p.m., Monday, Oct. 13 — As the Mecklenburg register closes his office, he counts an historic number of marriage licenses ever issued in a single day. A total of 86 licenses are issued, of which at least 62 were issued to same-gender couples. Thirty-five couples wedded outside the office during the day on Monday. The previous record for licenses issued in a single day is 63. Across North Carolina, an estimated total of at least 379 same-gender marriage licenses are issued in more than half of the state’s 100 counties.

Evening, Monday, Oct. 13 — More than 200 community members attend a community-wide, interfaith celebration of marriage equality at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church.

Afternoon, Tuesday, Oct. 14 — Osteen issues final rulings in his two cases, allowing Tillis and Berger to intervene — and thereby allowing them to appeal — and, similar to Cogburn, striking down the state’s anti-LGBT amendment.

Wednesday, Oct. 15 — Advocates with Equality North Carolina say they are monitoring potential instances of anti-LGBT marriage discrimination as magistrates in Alamance County say they will refuse to perform same-gender marriages.

Thursday, Oct. 16 — Alamance County Chief District Judge Jim Roberson says he wants a “compromise” that will allow magistrates to opt out of their official duties due to their personal religious beliefs.

Evening, Thursday, Oct. 16 — GOP leaders’ attorneys announce they will appeal orders striking down the state’s amendment.

Morning, Friday, Oct. 17 — Local Episcopalians react positively to recent news that all three of North Carolina’s Episcopal bishops will allow clergy across the state to bless and officiate at same-gender marriages.

Afternoon, Friday, Oct. 17 — Roberson changes course and says all magistrates in his district will be required to perform the duties of their oaths as an anti-LGBT legal firm and advocacy group tell North Carolina’s registers of deeds to defy their oaths and refuse to issue same-gender marriage licenses. : :

— compiled by Matt Comer

- - - advertisement - - -