Julie LeMoyne and Russell Fike of Sunny View NC had been living as a married couple for almost two years before they learned their marriage was not legal in the eyes of the state.
When the couple discovered their pastor had not officially married them, Fike says he “about hit the floor.”
Rev. Larry Devon Blanton has since been charged with a misdemeanor and the couple has had to arrange a second marriage ceremony, which will take place tomorrow.
“If something would have happened to either of us (the past two years), we couldn’t have proved (we were married),” LeMoyne said.
The marriage ceremony for LeMoyne and Fike was performed on April 17, 2004 by Rev. Blanton of Morgan Chapel Baptist Church. Approximately 200 witnesses were in attendance.
Fike and LeMoyne said after they asked Blanton what paperwork they needed to fill out to be married, such as an application for marriage, Blanton told the couple he would take care of everything. Blanton gave the couple a marriage certificate. They put the certificate away and didn’t think anything about it until almost two years later.
LeMoyne says she became concerned about the legality of their marriage when issues arose at their church, including a change in teachings by Blanton and Blanton’s firing of the church deacons (see story, page 8).
The couple visited the Polk County Sheriff’s Office earlier this year to see if they were legally married. A Polk County magistrate told the couple they were not legally married. No marriage license was obtained for Fike and LeMoyne and their certificate did not have the language and seal required by the register of deeds. A complaint was made against Blanton.
On Feb. 22 of this year, Blanton, 49, of 432 Harmon Field Road, Tryon, was arrested and charged with solemnization without license unlawful, a class I misdemeanor, according to Lt. Grayson Edwards, with the Polk County Sheriff’s Office.
The law states that, “no minister, officer, or any other person authorized to solemnize a marriage under the laws of this State shall perform a ceremony of marriage between a man and woman, or shall declare them to be husband and wife, until there is delivered to that person a license for the marriage of the said persons, signed by the register of deeds in the county in which a marriage license was issued or by a lawful deputy or assistant,” according to N.C. General Statute 51-6.
Blanton, in a letter to the Bulletin, said that a mistake was made at the sheriff’s office regarding his recent arrest. He said the misdemeanor charge was without merit and he is attempting to clear up the issues. Blanton concluded in his response that he couldn’t comment further as the issue is now in the hands of an attorney.
Officials at the Polk County Sheriff’s Office say there is no mistake, that a warrant was issued and executed on Blanton and he was arrested and charged with the misdemeanor.
LeMoyne and Fike will be legally married tomorrow in a ceremony scheduled for 2 p.m. at the Mill Spring Baptist Church at the intersection of Highways 9 and 108. Rev. Eric Page will perform the service, led by a Polk County magistrate.
Fike and LeMoyne say if nothing else, they want others to be aware so no one else falls victim to the same problems.
LeMoyne says she and Fike are thankful to the Mill Spring Baptist Church officials, who offered the church to the couple, and to the many people in the community who have helped with their situation.
LeMoyne says up to 75 people have been invited to tomorrow’s ceremony and any supporters in the community are also welcomed and invited to attend.