We got the word late afternoon Friday that the federal judge in Greensboro wasn’t going to do anything on the gay marriage matter until next week. A half an hour later, everything changed. Another federal judge, this one in Asheville, said, in effect, “Enough.” With his signature, he struck down the constitutional and statutory obstacles to gay marriage in North Carolina.
So ended a frenetic week in the Tar Heel state.
It started on Monday morning, when the U.S. Supreme Court, in a moment of Seinfeldian jurisprudence, started the historical ball rolling by doing nothing. Well, not nothing, but close to nothing. The Court quietly said that it would not review a Fourth Circuit decision striking down Virginia’s gay marriage ban. We looked at that when it hit the wires, and said to ourselves, wait a sec, North Carolina is in the Fourth Circuit. Did the Supreme Court just legalize gay marriage in North Carolina?
The answer was not yet. But the message was clear. All those plaintiffs who had been seeking in North Carolina to overturn the gay marriage ban now had a short path to the federal judges here who had been sitting on several cases. All they had to do now was ask the judges to nuke the gay marriage ban, because the Fourth Circuit’s ruling was now law in the circuit, and that meant North Carolina. Quickly, the lawyers for the plaintiffs did that.
The Republican legislative leadership scrambled to get their own lawyers to slow the process down, and it looked like that had succeeded with Judge William Osteen in Greensboro, who said he had a couple of questions he wanted answered. That looked like it for the week. But then Judge Max Cogburn in Asheville issued his ruling, and that was that.
By the time I walked over to the Register of Deeds office, Chad Biggs and Chris Creech had gotten married in the first gay wedding in Wake County, had cake and were posing for pictures. Happy same-sex couples were walking out of the new courthouse waving marriage licenses. The wheel of history had made its quarter turn and we were in a new day.