Around Town

What does the same-sex marriage ruling mean for Charlotte’s LGBT community? One man’s thoughts

“We just want the right to be with the person we love and marry in dignity, just like you heterosexual people take for granted.”

That’s what JC Corbett said to me Saturday night as he looked at me skeptically over his glass of Yuengling.

I sat there, silent, dumbfounded. He was right.

“Now, with yesterday’s ruling,” he continued, “all 50 states are (on) an even playing field. … It’s a big day yesterday, the 26th of June.”

We were sitting at the bar at Sidelines Sports Bar and Billiards, a hole-in-the-wall place past where the light rail ends on South Boulevard. You’d mistake it for any other sports bar except for the blue and yellow equal sign flag on the wall and the running slideshow of scantily-clad, well-muscled men that functions as the cash register screen saver.

Those words “taken for granted” lingered on my brain.

My fiancée and I almost got married about a month ago. We were going to get it done at Boone County Courthouse in Columbia, Mo., without telling our parents and most of our friends. Then, we thought better of it and set a date for November.

However, if we hadn’t changed our minds, as one man and one woman, no law would’ve been able to stop us. That same courthouse performed its first same-sex marriage Friday.

Corbett and I sat there in silence for awhile, as I struggled to find questions to bridge a divide that I can’t fully understand. He is in his 50s. Most of us know about the time when AIDS was known as “Gay-related Immune Deficiency,” from movies or books. He lived it, spending the 1980s in San Francisco.

He remembers when gay men married women to hide who they were. He knows people who couldn’t take care of their loved ones when they were ill. All because the law said no.

Kevin Cooper, the bartender at Sidelines, lost his boyfriend, a visiting student from Japan, when his visa ran out. And because they were gay, Cooper couldn’t marry him and keep him in the U.S. like a real-life version of “The Proposal.”

Today, Cooper believes he could.

Diedra Laird

All down the bar, men on their phones thumbed down Facebook timelines full of celebratory posts of news articles and rainbow banners. They joked that there will soon be reality shows about gay divorce court, which feature fights over the house, wigs and poodles.


“People will realize when they see it happening in their communities, in their towns that it really doesn’t change anything in their lives or in the institution of marriage,” Corbett said. “The institution where you can get married by an Elvis impersonator, and that’s supposed to be something sacred.”

Corbett thinks with the Supreme Court’s decision marriage rights will become a non-issue.

“There’s going to be no such thing as gay marriage, anymore,” he said. “It’s just going to be marriage.”

Photos: Diedra Laird/Charlotte Observer; Courtesy of JC Corbett

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Sam Hardiman