News & Commentary written by Ellen "Lennie" Gerber and Pearl Berlin

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Ellen "Lennie" Gerber and Pearl Berlin


High Point, North Carolina

Ellen “Lennie” Gerber and Pearl Berlin, of High Point, North Carolina, have been together for 47 years and were legally married in Maine last year. The two fell in love and committed their lives to each other in 1966. Ever since they have traveled the world together and supported one another in their professional careers, Gerber working as an attorney and Berlin as a college professor. They are now retired and have lived in North Carolina for more than 40 years.

Berlin is 89 years old and in fragile condition. She has been 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.

“As Pearl’s spouse, I want and need to be by her side the whole time in any medical emergency,” Lennie says. “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.”

They worry that Pearl may die before their marriage is recognized in North Carolina. “Pearl’s death would be devastating for me,” Lennie says. “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, which would demean the relationship we’ve built over 48 years and be an insult to her memory.”