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Pending Court Case Could Impact NC Marriage Amendment

PHOTO: Lennie Gerber (left), and her wife Pearl have been together for 48 years. They're among the plaintiffs in a suit challenging Amendment One. Courtesy: Gerber.
PHOTO: Lennie Gerber (left), and her wife Pearl have been together for 48 years. They're among the plaintiffs in a suit challenging Amendment One. Courtesy: Gerber.
July 21, 2014

RICHMOND, Va. - When it comes to North Carolina's 'Marriage Amendment,' all eyes are on a Richmond, Va. courtroom. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals could rule soon on a case challenging Virginia's ban on same-sex marriage.

Because the Tarheel State is in the 4th Circuit, a ruling could impact the legality of Amendment One.

Chris Brook, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina, said it wouldn't immediately invalidate Amendment One.

"A favorable ruling out of the 4th Circuit would make Amendment One legally indefensible."

The ACLU has filed two federal lawsuits in North Carolina, challenging the state's ban on marriage for same-sex couples. The most recent, in April, involves three married, same-sex couples seeking recognition of their marriage, in part because one member of each has a serious medical condition.

Lennie Gerber and her partner of 48 years, Pearl, are plaintiffs in the suit.

According to Lennie, time is everything to them. Pearl's health is failing.

"I'm fully aware of how we've had to fight for every step along the way of everybody's civil rights," said Gerber. "It's just one more stone that has to be turned. And I have every confidence that it's going to be so. They only question is, whether it will be done in time for us?"

Brook said the trend of overturning same-sex marriage bans seems to be on the fast track nationally. But couples like Lennie and Pearl have been waiting a lifetime.

"It's imperative to remember that we're representing clients that cannot wait months, years, for this to be resolved in the court system," said Brook. "They need their marriages recognized so they can fully take care of their spouses and children."

According to the ACLU, North Carolina's Marriage Amendment is affecting both same-sex couples and their children, their medical decisions, Social Security survivor benefits, and more.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - NC