Charlotte, like most North Carolina cities, won’t see its first same-sex wedding until at least Monday, but that didn’t stop spontaneous celebrations from erupting across the state Friday night as word spread of Amendment One’s demise in the courts.
Multiple gatherings were held in Charlotte, including a small rally that sprang up after dark near Trade and Tryon streets and a more formal affair at the Cathode Azure club on South Boulevard.
“Amendment One was passed with a majority vote, but it was a vote to suppress a minority, which isn’t a victory for anyone,” said Rob Marcy, as he stood waving a rainbow flag at Trade and Tryon with Michael Kelley, his partner of 26 years.
“We got married 10 years ago in Massachusetts, and what this means is now we’re legal in North Carolina. It feels very surreal for me.”
Added Kelley: “You can still be a bigot in North Carolina, but you will no longer have the law backing you up.”
Celebrations in the city could reach a fever pitch at 8 a.m. Monday, when the Mecklenburg County Register of Deeds office begins handing out marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Weddings on the lawn outside the building are already being planned for the morning.
In a few cities, marriage licenses were issued and weddings began shortly after the ban was overturned at 5:32 p.m.
Buncombe County Register of Deeds Drew Reisinger kept his Asheville office open late to begin issuing marriage licenses to the dozens of waiting couples the moment the ban was struck down. When the crowd gathered in the lobby heard the news, they erupted in cheers.
“It’s a historical day for the state of North Carolina,” Reisinger said. “It’s autumn in Asheville, and it’s a beautiful time to get married.”
Asheville is a progressive bastion nestled in the mountains and known for its vibrant downtown nightlife, art galleries and microbreweries. In anticipation of the ruling earlier this week, an enormous rainbow flag was draped across the front of Asheville’s landmark art-deco city hall to signal support for gay rights.
Amy Cantrell and Lauren White, with their two children in tow, walked outside Reisinger’s office with their license and were greeted by family and friends. The couple of six years exchanged vows before their minister, standing on the front steps.
“We’ve been waiting for this day for years,” said an exuberant Cantrell, 42.
“I thought I might pass out at one point,” added White, 29. “Pretty typical bride stuff.”
In the state capital, Wake County Register of Deeds Laura Riddick reopened her office in Raleigh on Friday evening and began issuing licenses to waiting couples.
Sheriff’s deputies Chad Biggs, 35, and Chris Creech, 46, were among the first to wed. They have been together for eight years.
“Even before this I was happy, but I think now that it’s on paper and it’s legal – it’s a commitment between two people,” Biggs said.
Guilford County Register of Deeds Jeff Thigpen closed his office at 5 p.m., thinking there would be no ruling.
But after the ruling, a few couples gathered in the parking lot at the Register of Deeds office to celebrate. Some ran around the surrounding parking lot yelling, “Yes!”
“Thank you, Judge Cogburn!” screamed Brad Newton.
Thigpen pulled up in his car, with his children and a bag from McDonald’s. He asked the crowd: “Do you want to do interviews or get married?” He then re-opened his office and began issuing marriage licenses.
Brad Newton and Frank Brooks were the first applicants in Guilford County.
“Let’s get married, boys,” said Ches Kennedy, the men’s minister.
Staff writer David Perlmutt, the Associated Press and the Greensboro News & Record contributed.