County offices adapt for same-sex marriage

Published 8:05 pm Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Friday, gay couples throughout North Carolina celebrated a decision ruling North Carolina’s gay marriage ban unconstitutional and informing county offices to comply with the new law.

“Magistrates should begin immediately conducting marriages of all couples presenting a marriage license issued by the Register of Deeds. No further authorization or instructions are necessary under the recent federal ruling. We can assure our magistrates that they are authorized to conduct those marriages of same-sex couples under the existing statutory authority they possess,” John W. Smith, director of North Carolina’s Administrative Office of the Courts, wrote in an email to all county offices involved.

Smith further wrote that same-sex marriages should not be delayed or postponed even if county officials seek more information or clarification on the matter.

Three days after the landmark decision, Jessica Mills and Gloria Long, of Chocowinity, celebrated their marriage on the Beaufort County Courthouse steps.

“It was nice. It was like anybody else,” said the magistrate who performed the ceremony.

According to Register of Deeds Jennifer Whitehurst, Long and Mills were the first couple to apply for a marriage license, but not the only one.

“We had two couples that wanted to, but only one couple we were able to help,” Whitehurst said.

A second couple decided to tie the knot in the county where one of the women was born because they didn’t have a certified copy of her birth certificate, a requirement for application along with a state-issued ID and Social Security card.

Whitehurst said she had not yet received gender-neutral marriage license applications from the state, so her office was scratching out any reference to gender until the office software is updated.

When asked how people in her office felt about the gay marriage ban being struck down and their role in facilitating gay marriage, Whitehurst responded, “(The law has) been declared unconstitutional. … It’s something that we have to do, just like any other thing the law requires us to do.”