Folk, a UNC senior, and her fiancee, Danielle Martin, a recent George Washington University graduate, are starting to plan their wedding for next May.
Although the preparation still brings challenges — like finding everything from a bakery to a venue that accepts same-sex couples — Friday was a break from the chaos.
“There’s no reason that you can’t take a minute and be happy,” Folk said. “This is something that affects my life in a huge way — and I’m happy.”
The Supreme Court of the United States decided June 26 that same-sex couples have the right to marry in all 50 states.
The 5-4 decision granted that state bans on gay marriage are unconstitutional under the 14th Amendment and that all states must recognize marriage licenses of gay and lesbian couples.
Gay marriage has been legal in North Carolina since October 2014, but the Supreme Court ruling acts as a final affirmation to N.C. couples who still had to worry about traveling across state borders or the possibility of an appeals decision overturning their right to marry.
“It’s nice to be seen as equal in the eyes of the law,” said Al Thorn, owner of Triangle Web Printing in Durham, which prints The Daily Tar Heel. “March 6” is engraved into Thorn’s wedding ring — the date he and his husband eloped.
Thorn said after N.C. marriage equality was achieved last year, he started hearing of a bill in the legislature that would allow magistrates to opt out of officiating same-sex marriages based on religious beliefs.
“We thought, ‘Gosh, what if something really bad happens? We’ll go ahead and get married while we can,’” he said. “It was nice to have it all affirmed.”
Martin and Folk said they are aware there is still work to be done in the fight for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people to be treated equally.
The N.C. legislature overturned Gov. Pat McCrory’s veto last month, enacting the bill Thorn feared into law and permitting magistrates to choose not to perform gay marriages on religious grounds.
“It’s so ridiculous,” Martin said of the law. The couple said they doubt the bill will affect them personally since the counties where they live and where they want to get married are both liberal.
“Of course there’s so much more that has to be done,” Folk said.
N.C. American Civil Liberties Union spokesman Mike Meno said although the decision is a monumental victory, N.C. same-sex couples are still not guaranteed equal treatment in all spheres of their lives. He pointed to housing and workplace discrimination.
“We, today, live in a state where a same-sex couple could get married over the weekend, and on Monday they could come to work and put a picture of their happy wedding moment on their desk and get fired,” Meno said.
He said ACLU North Carolina is working to make sure both same-sex parents can have their names on their child’s birth certificate.
“There’s still a lot that the ACLU and other groups have to focus on to ensure that the promises of equal protection under the U.S. Constitution truly apply to everybody, regardless of who you are or who you love.”
Meno said the ACLU and similar organizations like Equality N.C. have started to try to make changes in localities.
“The sad reality is that our state legislature has, to date, not shown much of a willingness to take up this issue,” he said. “In the absence of the ability to do something statewide, a lot of our partners have been focusing on passing these ordinances on the local level.”
For now, the ruling brings some certainty to gay couples who want to get married.
“Now we finally have that 50-state answer that people have been waiting for,” Meno said.
“For couples in North Carolina who have been able to have state recognition of their marriage since October, I think this was a very important reminder that the freedom to marry is here to stay.”
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story included a photo caption which misidentified the state Katy Folk and Danielle Martin plan to get married in. They plan to get married in North Carolina. The Daily Tar Heel apologizes for the error.