After last night’s historic ruling legalizing same-sex marriages in North Carolina, one county register of deeds says the McCrory administration unnecessarily delayed releasing gender-neutral marriage license forms.
Laura Riddick, a Republican first elected to county office in 1996, released a statement Friday saying that the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services refused her earlier requests for a copy of an existing gender-neural marriage license. DHHS is led by Aldona Wos, a Greensboro physician and wealthy Republican fundraiser appointed by Gov. Pat McCrory in January 2013.
Riddick kept her office open until after 9 p.m. Friday evening to issue marriage licenses after U.S. District Court Judge Max Cogburn Jr.’s order at around 5:30 p.m. that night declaring North Carolina’s ban on gay marriages unconstitutional.
Some of the first legal gay couples to marry in the state did outside Riddick’s office, including Wake County Sheriff Department employees Chad Briggs and Chris Creech who exchanged their vows as local news stations broadcast the union on live television.
Riddick, along with other Registers of Deeds across the state, hoped to have her department’s computer systems updated and ready when the expected federal court order legalizing same-sex marriages came down. (Click here for background on issue.)
DHHS withholding the form was “neither justified nor professional,” Riddick said in a statement.
From Riddick’s statement:
Preparing for the major change in one of our core public services was made needlessly difficult and complicated by the state Department of Health and Human Service’s decision to withhold from North Carolina’s 100 Register of Deeds the state’s new gender-neutral marriage form, which has been ready for some time. In my view, that was neither justified nor professional.
Since August, after the 4th Circuit ruled in Virginia’s Bostic case, I repeatedly asked DHHS to provide us the new form – which is a public record under state law – so we could get our computer system ready for a likely court order to issue same-gender marriage licenses here. But my requests, like those of other Registers of Deeds across the state, fell on deaf ears at DHHS.
Particularly once it became clear the U.S. Supreme Court was allowing same-gender marriages to go forward throughout the 4th Circuit, there was no legitimate rationale – if there ever had been – to withhold the forms. I apologize to our customers for any confusion or frustration the State’s inaction might have caused them. We have done our best to adjust to this unnecessary impediment to delivering efficient customer service via 21st century technology.
Riddick also had well wishes to offer.
“Many more couples, straight and gay, will come to this office for marriage licenses – all of whom have our best wishes for a happy and fulfilling union,” she said. “Every customer who uses the Wake County Registry can expect courteous, respectful, and professional treatment from us. That is our job.”
Video of the Briggs-Creech wedding, from the News & Observer: