College

Couple together for 48 years at center of fight over North Carolina ban on same-sex marriage

  • In this Friday, Aug. 1, 2014 photo, Lennie Gerber, left, and her spouse, Pearl Berlin, laugh while at their home in High Point, N.C. The couple, who have been together 48 years and legally married in Maine in 2013, have a federal challenge pending against North Carolina's constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. (AP Photo/Allen G. Breed)

    In this Friday, Aug. 1, 2014 photo, Lennie Gerber, left, and her spouse, Pearl Berlin, laugh while at their home in High Point, N.C. The couple, who have been together 48 years and legally married in Maine in 2013, have a federal challenge pending against North Carolina's constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. (AP Photo/Allen G. Breed)  (The Associated Press)

  • In this Friday, Aug. 1, 2014 photo, Lennie Gerber and Pearl Berlin pose for a picture at their home, in High Point, N.C. Roman numerals indicate the date, June 2, 1966, that Gerber and Berlin consider the true anniversary of their relationship.  The couple are suing to have the state of North Carolina recognize their marriage. (AP Photo/Allen G. Breed)

    In this Friday, Aug. 1, 2014 photo, Lennie Gerber and Pearl Berlin pose for a picture at their home, in High Point, N.C. Roman numerals indicate the date, June 2, 1966, that Gerber and Berlin consider the true anniversary of their relationship. The couple are suing to have the state of North Carolina recognize their marriage. (AP Photo/Allen G. Breed)  (The Associated Press)

  • In this Friday, Aug. 1, 2014 photo, Pearl Berlin, right, listens as her spouse, Lennie Gerber, talks about a federal lawsuit, at their home in High Point, N.C. Their suit is one of four challenging the state's constitutional ban on gay marriage. (AP Photo/Allen G. Breed)

    In this Friday, Aug. 1, 2014 photo, Pearl Berlin, right, listens as her spouse, Lennie Gerber, talks about a federal lawsuit, at their home in High Point, N.C. Their suit is one of four challenging the state's constitutional ban on gay marriage. (AP Photo/Allen G. Breed)  (The Associated Press)

Same-sex marriage is one step closer to being legal in North Carolina. And for one elderly couple, time is of the essence.

Ellen "Lennie" Gerber and Pearl Berlin of High Point are lead plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit against the Tar Heel State's gay-marriage ban. They've been together 48 years.

At 89 and in fragile health, Berlin doesn't know how much longer she can wait. The retired educator has been hospitalized several times in the past two years, including for a fall in December that broke three ribs.

The federal appellate court covering North Carolina has struck down the ban in neighboring Virginia. On Wednesday, that court refused to delay implementation of its ruling.

Gerber says North Carolina should bend to the arc of history.