While North Carolina awaits a federal judge’s signal that same-sex couples can marry, county registers of deeds don’t know when they’ll get the necessary forms from the state health agency to marry those couples.
The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision earlier this week to not take up cases about same-sex marriage paved the way for gay couples to marry in North Carolina, after a federal judge found a state ban on the marriages unconstitutional.
A federal judge lifted a stay late Wednesday, an indication that an order declaring North Carolina’s ban on same-sex marriages unconstitutional will be forthcoming.
Once that happens, county register of deeds can immediately start issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
But, the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services has yet to respond to requests from county-level registers of deeds for a gender-neutral application form for marriage licenses, as was first reported Tuesday by Q-Notes, a Charlotte-based LGBT publication. Several registers of deeds have said the state have already developed a form.
In the meantime, registers of deed will simply cross out terms like “bride” and “groom,” said Crystal Crump, the register of deeds for Union County and past president of the state association for register of deeds.
“We hate crossing through” on the forms, Crump said, but would prefer that to having to delay issuing marriage licenses.
DHHS said it is aware of the impending changes after the Supreme Court decision, but does not have the authority to release a gender-neutral form until the actual law is changed.
“At this time, N.C. DHHS is bound by existing state law and has no legal authority to issue a gender-neutral form in the absence of a court order or a statutory change,” DHHS spokeswoman Alexandra Lefebvre wrote in a written statement. “N.C. DHHS is aware of the Supreme Court decision and is closely monitoring how it may be applied in several pending cases that involve North Carolina’s marriage law.”
Note: This post changed from the original to include the correct spelling of DHHS spokeswoman Alexandra Lefebvre’s name.