Historic day: Gay marriage is legal in North Carolina

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

ASHEVILLE, N.C. -- Federal U.S. District Court Judge Max O. Cogburn Jr. has overturned North Carolina's ban on same-sex marriage, prompting marriages to start across the state Friday.

"The court determines that North Carolina's laws prohibiting same-sex marriage are unconstitutional as a matter of law," wrote Cogburn, who was appointed to the federal bench by President Barack Obama. "The issue before this court is neither a political issue nor a moral issue. It is a legal issue and it is clear as a matter of what is now settled law in the Fourth Circuit that North Carolina laws prohibiting same sex marriage, refusing to recognize same sex marriages originating elsewhere, and/or threating to penalize those who would solemnize such marriages, are unconstitutional."

About an hour after same-sex marriage became legal Friday evening, the Guilford County Register of Deeds, Jeff Thigpen, and his staff returned to work to issue same-sex couples marriage licenses.

"We said it was going to be today - we knew it was going to be today, we really did," said Frank Brooks and Brad Newton, the first same-sex couple in Guilford County to receive a marriage licenses and tie the knot. "We left here at 5 o'clock and we were so depressed," said Brooks. "We got home and sat in our back yard with our dogs and our phones started going crazy."

A couple swearing on the Bible after being issued the first same-sex marriage license in Guilford County. (WGHP-TV)

Frank Brooks and Brad Newton swear on the Bible after being issued the first same-sex marriage license in Guilford County. (WGHP-TV)

As couples lined up in Guilford County, an unidentified man, against same-sex marriage, shouted in the registers office asking to pray.

"It's time to take a stand," said the man holding a Bible up. "For we remember the days of Sodom and Gomorrah, we ask you to save this city. You destroyed the city because people refused to give up the lust of the flesh."

For more than three hours, the office issued marriage licenses, as ministers performed marriages.

The ruling came despite attempts by North Carolina's Republican leadership to intervene in both cases.

Senate leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Thom Tillis issued the following statement following the ban being overturned:

While we recognize the tremendous passion on all sides of this issue, we promised to defend the will of North Carolina voters because they – not judges and not politicians – define marriage as between one man and one woman and placed that in our state constitution. It is disappointing this decision was made without North Carolina's law receiving its day in court, and we will continue to work to ensure the voice of the voters is heard.

The ruling was met with celebration among scores of same-sex couples who had spent hours lined up at county courthouses across the state, awaiting a ruling allowing them to marry.

Marriage licenses are being issued at the Guilford County Register of Deeds. The Register of Deeds was open until 8 p.m. Friday.

For more than three hours, the office issued marriage licenses, as ministers performed marriages.

"I'm an activist, but at the end of the day I've also been in a loving committed relationship for a long time," said Chris Sgro of Equality NC. "It's exciting."

Read order: PDF

North Carolina is the 28th state to legalize gay marriage.