Neuse Correctional Institution will hold a same-sex wedding on May 21, one week after civil rights attorneys threatened a lawsuit if the couple continued to wait for approval of the union.
The Carolina Justice Policy Center sent a letter to the prison and the North Carolina Department of Justice on behalf of Sandy Dowell, who is an inmate, and her fiancee, Amanda Marriner. Dowell will have a parole hearing in 2021.
The women became engaged in October and submitted a marriage request in November. Neuse Correctional Institution’s Marriage Standards state that the process may take up to four months. After six months, Dowell and Marriner were still waiting, and they claimed the delay was due to their being gay.
CBS 17 contacted the Department of Public Safety’s corrections division on May 14. One day later, communications officer John Bull responded by email: “the offender request to marry is being processed like any other marriage request from an offender. Gender plays no role in this process. Same-sex marriages have been legal in North Carolina since 2014 and the gender of the marriage applicants, in this case, is immaterial.”
Marriner received a call from a prison administrator Thursday morning which said she could bring a marriage license Friday afternoon when she goes to visit Dowell. A few hours later, prison staff set a wedding date for May 21.
“I ran to Pastor’s house and he said he would be there so I called (her) back and confirmed. What has taken us 6 months of no movement obviously got fast-tracked and done in 2 days. Again no way to thank y’all for the mountains y’all moved to allow me to marry the most genuine person I know who happens also to be the best person EVER,” Marriner wrote in an email.
Neuse Correction Institution permits weddings on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays. Staff assigns the dates for inmates and their spouses.
Inmates must wear their correctional clothing for the ceremony and may invite six adults who are among those named on the approved visitation list. No other inmates may attend except the chapel clerk who will assist the staff is necessary.
Cameras are not allowed, but inmates can contact the prison’s service club to arrange to purchase photos.
A 15-minute supervised visit is allowed after the ceremony. The minister will complete and return the license at that time.