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Same-sex couples reflect 5 years after marriage decision

By NANCY

MCLAUGHLIN

Associated Press

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Frank Brooks and Brad Newton have lost three parents between them and gotten through a cancer scare in the last five years — as husband and husband.

“It’s nice to know there’s that legal safety net,” said Newton, a marketing consultant, of being legally married to Brooks, a real estate agent, who he met at a mutual friend’s birthday party 18 years earlier. “I love him as much as I ever did.”

Thursday (marked) the fifth anniversary of Brooks and Newton saying “I do” at the Guilford County Register of Deeds office on Oct. 10, 2014 — just hours after a judge’s order struck down the state’s ban on same-sex marriages.

The government office that processes marriage certificates had closed for the day, but was among a handful across the state that reopened for business after the ruling.

Since then, about 980 same-sex couples have filed for marriage licenses in Guilford County.

“I love when I hear, “How is your wife doing?” said Greensboro police officer Latoya Anderson, who married her longtime love, Ashley Benton, a few months after the ruling. “Years ago, most people were only comfortable acknowledging Ashley as ‘my friend,’ and I believe that speaks volumes on how far we have come as a society.”

Benton wore a long, white gown and carried a bouquet as they exchanged vows before a judge.

Anderson was in her uniform.

“They thought we were strange for wanting the same respect, the same rules as heterosexual couples when we were and are living the same lives,” said Benton, the founder of a Greensboro nonprofit.

Thigpen, like other registrars across the state, had been waiting the whole week for a judge’s ruling one way or another.

At least two cases were making their way before federal judges in North Carolina.

All eyes were on the Greensboro Middle District Court across the street from the Register of Deeds office, where Chief U.S. District Judge William L. Osteen Jr. was hearing arguments against eliminating the state ban on same-sex marriage.

“I remember someone asking me that week about same-sex marriage, and I said for the last couple of years it’s been down the road,” Thigpen recalled Monday. “But on Friday, it was at our door.”

By 9:30 a.m., Thigpen was on a flurry of calls with his counterparts across the state. Of chief concern: legal paperwork that would replace “Bride” and “Groom” with “Applicant One” and “Applicant Two.”

Clergy were waiting to perform free weddings.

Same-sex couples anxiously awaited news of the decision.

Thigpen knew that some of his staff, based on their religious convictions, were having trouble with the idea of processing the paperwork necessary so two people of the same sex could wed.

Several couples decided to go ahead and fill out forms, which would be processed if the judge overturned the ban.