Lennie and Pearl: “Time is of the Essence”
“Lennie” Gerber and Pearl Berlin have been together for 48 years.
Think of what it would mean for someone who has been with their partner for decades to confront losing a spouse, while the state they live in insists they’re not really married. That’s exactly what many same-sex couples face in North Carolina.
The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of North Carolina recently filed a new lawsuit asking a court to grant relief for three North Carolina families in desperate situations by overturning North Carolina’s ban on marriage recognition for same-sex couples.
Our clients — three lesbian couples in long-term, loving, and committed relationships — have long been pillars of their community yet North Carolina law treats them as second-class citizens, denying them respect of their marriages.
Because of their age and medical conditions, these couples have a substantial fear that one of them could pass away before their marriage is recognized by North Carolina, depriving them forever of the dignity state-recognition of their marriage would bring.
Ellen “Lennie” Gerber and Pearl Berlin have been together for 48 years and were married in Maine in 2013, though they have lived in North Carolina for more than 40 years. Pearl is 89 years old and was hospitalized three times over the past two years, most recently for having suffered a fall where she hit her head, incurred internal bleeding, and broke three ribs.
“The idea of Pearl having to go through any sort of emergency alone, or have another person make decisions for her is devastating to me,” Lennie says. They worry that Pearl may die before their marriage is recognized in North Carolina. “It would only make things worse at a time of tremendous grief and loss if I were not listed on her death certificate as her spouse,” Lennie says, “which would demean the relationship we’ve built over 48 years and be an insult to her memory.”