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Sunday June 26th

First gay couples get married in Orange County

Same-sex couples were allowed to register for marriage licenses for the first time on Monday Oct. 13, 2014, at the Orange County Register of Deeds in Hillsborough.
Buy Photos Same-sex couples were allowed to register for marriage licenses for the first time on Monday Oct. 13, 2014, at the Orange County Register of Deeds in Hillsborough.

Carrboro Mayor Lydia Lavelle and her spouse, Alicia Stemper, were one of them. Lavelle said they arrived at the Orange County Register of Deeds at 7:45 a.m. Monday, making them the first LGBT couple to receive a marriage license in Orange County.

Though Lavelle and Stemper had a commitment ceremony about a decade ago, Lavelle said the two decided to go to the office early Monday to get an official marriage license.

“It was really exciting — we didn’t want to wait,” Lavelle said. “We knew that once we were able to, we’d want to go ahead and get a license.”

Lavelle said the lead-up to the ruling on the state’s marriage ban had come sooner than she had expected.

“It was a weird emotional up and down,” she said. “I think by that time everyone had resigned themselves to thinking it would be next week.”

Gina Kilpatrick and Joni Madison were another couple who opted to wait until Monday for a marriage license.

Madison asked Kilpatrick to marry her a year ago, and they had planned to get married this Friday in Washington, D.C. and hold a wedding ceremony at their home in Hillsborough later on.

“With all this, luckily, we’re only going to have to have one ceremony in North Carolina, and the next thing I’m going to do is cancel some plane tickets and some hotel reservations,” Madison said.

Kilpatrick said she and Madison had planned to be married by friend and former Methodist minister, Jimmy Creech, who was defrocked in the late 1990s for performing an LGBT couple’s marriage.

“He couldn’t pronounce us, and he couldn’t sign the license,” Madison said. “But we told him, ‘We’ll figure it out.’”

Madison said Creech is now ordained again and will be able to preside over their wedding.

“It was a really loving, caring gesture,” Madison said. “We’re very touched.”

The two plan to get married Saturday on their 20th anniversary.

Chapel Hill resident Terry Schneider went to the Orange County Register of Deeds on Monday to show his support for LGBT couples, holding a North Carolina flag emblazoned with “Marriage Equality, 10 October 2014.”

“I still haven’t really absorbed this yet,” he said. “This will be a good step toward making gay and lesbian people equal and no longer second-class.”

But Lavelle said the ability for gay couples to marry has certain considerations along with its benefits.

“In my situation, fortunately, we’ve been together long enough that we knew once we could get married, we would,” she said. “I think a lot of couples have had to sit down and have a long talk. A wedding needs to be a thoughtful, planned-out thing.”

Still, she said, it’s important to remember that the fight for gay rights is far from over.

The next steps in changing the legal landscape could focus on employment discrimination and public accommodation laws, she said. LGBT advocacy group Equality N.C. has said it will fight for a non-discrimination bill during the 2015 state legislative session.

“Even now, I think for some people, it’s still too good to be true, and they’re proceeding very cautiously,” Lavelle said. “We can’t forget that there are some states that don’t have this yet. We’ve definitely been in those shoes.”


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