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First Same-Sex Marriage License in Watauga Issued Monday Morning, Other Couples Follow Suit in Afternoon

On Monday afternoon, Watauga County Magistrate Dustin Shore wed the first same-sex couple – Cathy Growene (left) and Gina Razete – to marry in the Watauga County Magistrate’s Office. Photo by Jesse Wood

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By Jesse Wood

Oct. 13, 2014. On Monday morning, Kathleen Ann Adams, 46, and Elizabeth Louise Wilson, 44, both of Sugar Grove, became the first same-sex couple to marry in Watauga County, according to the county’s Register of Deeds JoAnn Townsend.

On Friday evening, Federal Judge Max Cogburn Jr. ruled against North Carolina’s Amendment 1, which banned same-sex marriage in the state. Since his order came after the local Register of Deeds office had closed, Adams and Wilson arrived at the courthouse first thing on Monday morning.

Aside from Adams and Wilson, Townsend added that one other couple has inquired about same-sex marriage licenses on Monday morning.

Adams and Wilson couldn’t be reached on Monday morning.

Growene and Razete

On Monday afternoon, Watauga County Magistrate Dustin Shore wed the first same-sex couple – Gina Razete and Cathy Growene – to marry in the Watauga County Magistrate’s Office.

Originally from Cincinnati, Ohio, the two have been together for 25 years after meeting each other through mutual friends in their hometown. In 1990, Razete and Growene were “spiritually” engaged and have been hoping

“I never thought I’d see this day coming – not in my lifetime,” Razete said. “It’s unbelievable.”

Growene responded much the same way.

“I really didn’t think this would happen in my lifetime. Once the other states started falling in line, [I thought we might have a chance to marry], but I didn’t think North Carolina would be that quick.”

Razete and Growene said they are celebrating with pizza and a cake from Our Daily Bread tonight.

“Maybe we’ll smash it in each other’s faces,” Razete joked.

Last Thursday, a same-sex couple looking to marry was denied by the local office. Townsend, however, said that the denial happened because the order from Cogburn hadn’t yet been handed down.

On Sunday evening, the Watauga County Register of Deeds office received new marriage forms from the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services with new terminology representing the new ruling.

Following the federal judge’s order, the LGBT Caucus of the N.C. Democratic Party said in a release that Amendment 1 made the LGBT community “second-class citizens.”

“No longer will we have to travel to another state to marry the one we love or feel like strangers in our own home state. The LGBT Democrats of North Carolina are proud on this day to be Tar Heels, proud to be Americans, proud to be LGBT and proud to be Democrats,” the release read.

Days before Cogburn’s ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court elected not to review an appeals court ruling striking down same-sex marriage bans. While liberal groups celebrated SCOTUS’ decision, N.C. House Speaker Thom Tillis (R-Mecklenburg) and N.C. Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) noted that they would defend North Carolina’s constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman.

“The people of North Carolina have spoken, and while the Supreme Court has not issued a definitive ruling on the issue of traditional marriage, we are hopeful they will soon,” said Tillis and Berger. “Until then, we will vigorously defend the values of our state and the will of more than 60 percent of North Carolina voters who made it clear that marriage is between one man and one woman.”

American Civil Liberties Union noted that U.S. District Judge William Osteen denied a request last week from Tillis and Berger to allow oral arguments in two ACLU lawsuits challenging the state’s ban on same-sex marriage. A release from ACLU also noted that Osteen did request current parties in the lawsuit to provide further guidance on whether to let the two Republican leaders to intervene in the case by 3 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 13.

“The movement in these cases is encouraging, but the freedom to marry cannot come to North Carolina soon enough. Judge Osteen has indicated he needs no further briefing on the constitutionality of North Carolina’s marriage ban, and we are hopeful that a ruling striking down this discriminatory law will come in a matter of days. We are working to reply to all of Judge Osteen’s requests as soon as possible,” ACLU of North Carolina Legal Director Chris Brook said in a statement.