Carolina Inn hosts same-sex marriage ceremony
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article said the wedding of Garrett Hall and Zachary Howell was the first in the Carolina Inn’s history. It was not. The article has been amended to reflect this change.
The altar was set, the vows were recited and the rings were exchanged.
And then the groom kissed the groom.
The wedding of Garrett Hall and Zachary Howell, held Saturday at the Carolina Inn, came just less than one year after Amendment One passed in North Carolina.
“Was it on our minds? Of course,” said Howell, who graduated from UNC with Hall in 2006.
But the amendment, he said, could not stop the wedding.
“We were certainly sad to see it pass, to see it pass with the margin it passed, but the love we have for each other is so much bigger than this political brouhaha.”
Because same-sex marriage is not legal in North Carolina, Hall and Howell legally wed April 1 in New York, where they currently live.
At the Inn on Saturday, the couple exchanged self-written vows in a ceremony officiated by Jesse White, an adjunct professor in the School of Government who met the grooms when they were students at UNC.
White recited a Maya Angelou poem and the Massachusetts Supreme Court decision that legalized same-sex marriage in the country for the first time.
“Then we just talked about the specialness of the occasion, how we need to all work for marriage equality and how special these guys are,” White said.
Dede Hall, Garrett Hall’s mother, said after the amendment passed last May, she thought the couple might choose to hold the wedding elsewhere.
“It’s a little hard to spend revenue in a state that still is backward in that way,” she said.
But her son said he never stopped wanting to have the ceremony on the same campus where he met and later proposed to his husband.
“It’s important to us to be on campus and to be visible, because I think with Amendment One, a lot of people are inclined to go back in the closet or to keep their relationship secret,” Garrett Hall said.
“But we believe that the best way to put North Carolina forward is to be visible and to show our love to each other.”
And with the wedding, Howell said, that’s exactly what they wanted to do.
“To be a little bit grandiose, I think if the people of North Carolina could see what was happening here today, it would change their hearts and minds,” he said.
Howell said the Carolina Inn staff made the couple feel welcome throughout the planning process.
“I think it was different for them, working with two guys who hadn’t put much thought into this,” Howell said. “But they were fantastic, and they held our hands when we needed guidance.”
And guidance, Howell said, was needed.
“They would say to us, ‘What are your colors?” he said. “And we were like, ‘Well, what are our colors? I guess Carolina blue?’”
Dede Hall said she was happy to see her son in as open and accepting a community as Chapel Hill when he first came out.
“When he first told me, I turned to him and said, ‘Well, you know mothers don’t like anything for their children that’s going to make their life harder,’” she said.
“But he just said, ‘Mom, it doesn’t, and it’s not going to — the world is changing.’”
Morgan Howell, Zachary Howell’s brother, said the wedding sent a positive message to the community.
“There’s no need for hiding behind closet doors anymore,” he said. “That’s kind of what this wedding is saying.”
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