Wedding guests could feel the love flow, unconditionally, as we celebrated the union of Lamont and Norman Burton in Raleigh on June 13.
We were welcomed to the Virginia Dare Ballroom at the Sir Walter Raleigh Apartments downtown with a glass of Moscato – our choice, pink or white. And at the threshold, our attention was captivated by elegance, bursting with class, creativity and color to perfectly punctuate our All-White Party attire.
Joy overshadowed a historic backdrop.
Two days earlier, the N.C. House of Representatives joined the Senate in a vote to override Gov. Pat McCrory’s veto of a bill that allows some court officials to disclose a “sincerely held religious objection” and refuse to marry same-sex couples. Those who do must stop performing all marriage duties for at least six months.
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North Carolina is the second state to pass such an exemption law. Utah was first.
Ironically, perhaps, the 69-41 override vote came on the eve of Loving Day, which commemorates the June 12 anniversary of the Loving v. Virginia decision that legalized interracial marriage.
Our state’s exemption law comes less than a year after the U.S. Supreme Court’s refusal to hear appeals from five states cleared the way last October for same-sex marriage in 11 other states, including North Carolina.
But timing was everything for the Burtons, like so many same-sex couples who have fought and waited for equal rights to love, honor, cherish, protect and live happily ever with whomever they choose.
Celebration with family and friends
On Oct. 13, three days after it became legal for same-sex couples to marry in North Carolina, Lamont Burton and Norman Kale said “I do” in a ceremony performed by a minister in Nash Square Park, near City Hall.
They had been together nine years.
“In our eyes, we were already married,” said Norman, 39. “That was just to make it official.”
Lamont, 45, added: “We didn’t know whether it was going to be overturned, so we felt like it was the right thing to do, and the right time.”
This month’s celebration marked the couple’s eight-month anniversary.
“We wanted to actually do our own vows because what we did the day of (our wedding) was very generic,” said Lamont, a hair stylist in Garner. “And we wanted our family and friends to share in that with us.”
Guests were treated to table settings, hors d’oeuvres, a catered meal and a three-tier wedding cake – all designed and created, cooked and baked by the grooms themselves.
The Burtons even designed their own tuxedos.
‘The real thing’
Lamont’s mother, Joyce Gadison, remembers the day her son told her the news. She was fussing because he’d been skipping school. He was crying.
“‘Well, I think I’m gay,’” she recalled him blurting out.
She responded: “Who cares about that? That shouldn’t have anything to do with you skipping school.”
Gadison didn’t blink.
“I can’t tell you how to interpret your Bible,” said Gadison, whose church is in the midst of rewriting its bylaws to deny same-sex marriage requests. “Just like I’m God’s child – no matter what I’ve done or who I’ve been – he’s always accepted me. I’m his child and he loves me no matter what. That’s how I feel about Lamont.”
Gadison also embraces those in the wedding party Lamont introduced during his vows as “my kids” – nine people ages 13 to 44 who gravitate to him for support and guidance.
Each walked in, wearing white accented by electric hues of orange, pink, blue and green. They poured vessels of sand into a larger, keepsake vessel. The grooms’ sand topped the vessel.
“We are one,” Norman later explained. “We will always be there for each other.”
Like any mother blessing her child’s marriage amid the noise of the world, Gadison told her son and son-in-law this one thing: “You came in as two, but you leave as one. This is the real thing.”