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After 23 Years Together, Lesbian Couple Plans Church Wedding

Nancy Ruth Best and Wynolia Apple plan to get married next Sunday after being together for 23 years.
Reema Khrais

Same-sex couples are expected to head to Register of Deeds offices across the state today to get marriage licenses. A federal judge overturned the state’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage late Friday.

That case was filed by a group of clergy members. They argued that not being able to marry gay couples violated their freedom of religion. This weekend, many churches celebrated the decision, including Pilgrim United Church of Christ in Durham.

The congregation began its service with the reverend’s husband strumming a guitar, singing John Mayer’s ‘Waiting on the World to Change.’

“Wait, wait, wait, wait!” yelled Reverend Ginger Brasher-Cunningham, who was wearing a rainbow-colored stole around her neck.  “The world has changed!”

“We fought so hard for so long…” said Brasher-Cunningham, addressing a crowd of about 50 people.

They were all gathered in the fellowship hall – a simple room with steel chairs and floral window curtains. It’s an intimate setting to celebrate the repeal of the state’s same-sex marriage.

“It is with joy in our hearts that we get to be a huge part of this because it was the United Church of Christ lawsuit that helped push things over,” Brasher-Cunningham said.

She is talking about a lawsuit filed by a group of churches, religious leaders and gay couples. They argued – successfully – that the ban on same-sex marriage kept clergy from exercising their freedom of religion. They say that all couples should be treated equally.

“The premise of our church played out in our government. How cool is that?” said Brasher-Cunningham.

As the reverend wrapped up her remarks, she called on her members.   

“I’m going to ask if there any announcements,” she said.

Two older women holding hands made their way up to the front of the room. They were both wearing glasses and yellow sweaters.   

“We want to invite all of you to come next Sunday afternoon at four o’ clock to help us celebrate our marriage,” they announced to the cheering congregation.

Together For 23 Years

'We've been together for 23 years and .. we want to get married in this church, which is our home!'

Nancy Ruth Best and her partner Wynolia Apple are in their seventies. They’ve been waiting for this moment ever since they began dating. 

“We’ve been together for 23 years and we had been talking to Ginger…as soon as it’s legal, we want to get married in this church, which is our home!” said Best.

They met in 1991. Wynolia Apple was visiting a friend in the hospital, who was in critical condition. To find some comfort, she met with the hospital’s chaplain, Nancy Ruth Best. Best says it wasn’t long before they began dating. 

“She chased me hot and heavy,” she said. “Every afternoon when I would come home from work, there would be flowers at my door or tapes with music at my door. In fact, we’re going to walk into our wedding with Pachelbel’s ‘Canon,’ that was the first tape she every brought to me.”

They may have their song down, but there’s still a lot more they need to plan for next week’s wedding. They’re going shopping for their outfits this week and this morning they’re running to Kinko’s to make copies of the invites. While all of this is extremely exciting to Best, it’s a tad overwhelming for Apple.

Apple: So, the two things I have to remember are the ring and ‘I do.’

Best: And you have to repeat some words after Ginger, but she’ll do it in small phrases

Apple: Maybe I should have them written on the back of my hand of something *laugh*

Best: (laughs) Noo.

It’ll be the first legal same-sex marriage performed in Pilgrim United Church of Christ. A few other gay couples that are part of the congregation said they are also planning to marry soon – maybe in the next couple of months. The reverend says she’ll be at the Register of Deeds today to see who else wants to get married.

>> McCrory Says He'll Uphold Gay North Carolinians' Right To Marry

Reema Khrais joined WUNC in 2013 to cover education in pre-kindergarten through high school. Previously, she won the prestigious Joan B. Kroc Fellowship. For the fellowship, she spent a year at NPR where she reported nationally, produced on Weekends on All Things Considered and edited on the digital desk. She also spent some time at New York Public Radio as an education reporter, covering the overhaul of vocational schools, the contentious closures of city schools and age-old high school rivalries.
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