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Same-Sex Marriage Begins In NC

Jorge Valencia

Same-sex marriage is now legal in North Carolina. This comes after a two-year battle in the courts and one week of high anticipation. Late on Friday afternoon, a federal judge in Asheville declared the state's constitutional ban on gay marriage illegal. Same-sex marriages will begin Monday in Mecklenburg County. Some took place Friday evening at the Wake County Courthouse. Jorge Valencia of WUNC was there and filed this report:

Chad Biggs and Chris Creech got married at 6:02 p.m. in Wake County in front of the bright lights of television and still cameras.

It wasn't the kind of intimacy they'd once imagined, but it was in Wake County and close to home -- unlike the time they flew to another state to try to legally marry.

"When we stood there in a long line, I looked at him, and I said, "You know I love you, but I am not spending my entire weekend in New York, in a line, waiting to get married," said Biggs, adding that he'd rather get married in North Carolina.

And for Biggs it wasn't only about doing it in the place where he lives -- it was about sharing it with his family.

"Cause my mother jokingly says, 'Don't you jump on that plane and go get married in New York!' Or, 'Don't go to Boston. Don't you go anywhere else to do this.' I said, 'You know what, I've held out this long, North Carolina is heading in a positive direction, and I see the light at the end of the tunnel.'"

Gay marriage began to look like a real possibility on Monday.

The U.S. Supreme Court decided not to hear an appeal of a decision striking down Virginia's ban on gay marriage. Lower courts spent the week deliberating what that meant for North Carolina.

Two years ago, state voters approved a constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union between a man and a woman. And state Senate Leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Thom Tillis vowed to protect that.

Biggs and Creech expected the amendment to get struck down on Wednesday, then on Thursday and on Friday, they and others were at the Wake County Register of Deeds by noon.

Second In Line

Vicki Britt and Trish Philbrook were the second couple in line hoping to get married. They'd been together for six years. Britt has lived in Garner her whole life, so she wanted to marry here. At 5 p.m. that seemed unlikely.

"It's just crazy because it's gonna happen, folks," Britt said. "I don't understand the fight. People are people, and they should be treated individually."

But when the office was supposed to close, Register of Deeds Laura Riddick got a call from the County Attorney.

Riddick leaned into her cell phone and said: "I can, I can issue a license."

U.S. District Judge Max Cogburn had just issued a ruling against the marriage amendment. The crowd of hopeful couples had dissipated, and Biggs, who'd been there all week, was cautious.

"He's going to give the order. Just give us a little bit of time. We've been patient all day. Haven't we?," said Biggs.

Within half an hour, Biggs and Creech were newlyweds in North Carolina (Not New York), and so were Britt and her partner Philbrook.

It turns out the two couples are long-time friends. Biggs, Creech and Britt all work for the Wake County Sheriff's Office. They hugged, ate strawberry cake and Britt even put some on her new wife's face.

The night, in a sense, was just starting. People across town were hearing about the weddings and were showing up to get married themselves or to give hugs and smiles and pats on the back.

The registrar's office stayed open until late, until 9 p.m., and issued 51 marriage licenses to gay couples. More are expected on Monday.