gay marriage ruling 100914

Frank Brooks  and Brad Newton talk to reporters while waiting at the Guilford County Registry of Deeds office for a judge's ruling to allow same-sex marriage.

Updated 4:55 p.m.

Jeff Thigpen, Guilford County's register of deeds, says his office will close at 5 p.m., the same time a federal judge has given plaintiffs in North Carolina's same-sex marriage lawsuit to provide additional paperwork.

If U.S. District Court Judge William Osteen decides to rule against the state's same-sex ban, that means Guilford's same-sex couples might not be able to marry until Friday morning, Thigpen said.

It is unclear when Osteen is going to rule on the ban, but the additional paperwork is a side issue and involves "injunctive relief" or the right of the plaintiffs to sue should they win. The issue was decided earlier in the case, but the paperwork submitted by the American Civil Liberties Union apparently did not reflect that.

"We've got a lot of movable parts," Thigpen said. "Right at 5 there's going to be some silence ... then we're probably going home for tonight."

Frank Brooks, who waited with his partner Brad Newton to get a marriage license, said it has been frustrating. He said he's upset that the state intervened at the last minute.

"It's going to happen," he said. "It's silly, almost vicious, just a last-grasp."

Also listening nearby was Chris Sgro, the executive director of Equality North Carolina, which partners with the ACLU.

He said it wasn't a wasted day for the couples who showed up to fill out paperwork.

"This will be one of the biggest judicial victories for civil rights of a generation and people want to be a part of that, regardless," Sgro said.

Updated 2:02 p.m.

GREENSBORO − As couple Brad Newton and Frank Brooks await a judge's ruling, they expressed frustration at efforts by state GOP leaders to block the end of a state ban on same-sex marriage. 

House Speaker Thom Tillis and Senate President Phil Berger reportedly have hired a conservative California legal expert to fight the effort to legalize gay marriage in the state.

Newton and Brooks both have waited at the Guilford County Register of Deeds office since early Thursday morning to possibly fill out a marriage certificate.

"We had hoped to be done and back home with a bottle of champagne," Newton said. "Thom Tillis and Phil Berger are bullies, the same kind of bullies I had in high school. They can delay this, but we've won on every federal level across the United States."


Updated 9:35 a.m.

GREENSBORO − Guilford County Registrar Jeff Thigpen has been on a flurry of calls with the state's other registers of deeds. He said all await revised paperwork from the state Department of Health and Human services and they say they feel unprepared.

"They feel they don't have the tools they need and it's going to create chaos," Thigpen said from his office Thursday. 

The state registers of deeds were told at an association meeting earlier this year that the state has the actual paperwork updated, he said.

"They are sitting on it," Thigpen said. "Secretary (Aldona) Wos, we need that form."

At least two clergy are at Thigpen's office waiting to perform free weddings.

Check back for updates. 


Posted 8:59 a.m. Thursday

GREENSBORO − The Rev. Jac Grimes stood outside the Guilford County Register of Deeds Office, which is in the shadow of the courthouse where a judge could rule on same-sex marriage at any time.

"I got to think he knows everybody's holding (their) breath," Grimes said Thursday morning.

After U.S. Court District Judge William Osteen lifted the stay on challenges to the state's ban on gay nuptials on Wednesday, legal observers said that cleared the way for a ruling.

The action followed the U.S. Supreme Court’s refusal on Monday to hear appeals from five states looking to keep their bans on same-sex marriages.

If Osteen rules in favor of same-sex marriages in North Carolina, as expected, registers of deeds across the state say they will begin issuing marriage licenses immediately.

Two couples were in the door shortly after the register of deeds office opened today. The first shied away from the throng of cameras.

"I haven't told my parents," said one of the women.

The other couple had rushed to the office before closing Wednesday when word spread the judge might rule before the end of the day.

"This is going to be a historic day -- I hope," said Brad Newton,  a 46-year-old email marketing specialist and one of the first would-be grooms to arrive.

Ashly Morrison, who came with Newton and his partner Frank Brooks, stood with tears running down her face as the men were surrounded by reporters as they spoke of meeting at a mutual friends birthday party 18 years ago. Once the men get a license , Morrison and another friend will stand up for them as another friend performs a legal ceremony right away.

"My husband and I have been married almost 20 years and they love each other as much as we do," Morrison said. "To be able to see this happen for them, for us, for society is a wonderful thing."

As of now everyone is waiting.

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