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Five couples take marriage vows at Pride Winston-Salem event

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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Bonnie Clark and Patte Lusé emerged from the shadows in the back of a stage at Pride Winston-Salem Saturday, and stepped into the sunlight, wearing smiles loaded with emotion, their clasped hands raised in triumph

They were getting married, something that was unthinkable to them just 10 days ago, the Winston-Salem Journal reported.

But after U.S. District Judge Max O. Cogburn Jr., issued a ruling striking down North Carolina’s ban on same-sex marriage on Oct. 10, couples such as Clark and Lusé are now to free to marry.

Which is exactly what they and four other couples did Saturday at the city’s fourth annual Pride festival on Trade Street in front of a crowd of people that s”tretched about half a city block.

“This is the way most people get to do it,” Clark said about getting to say vows and exchange rings in a legally recognized ceremony. “And we finally have the opportunity and the right.”

Jesse Duncan presided over a nondenominational service, noting several times that the weddings now have the support and respect of the state.

“I now pronounce you married, in love and legally recognized in the state of North Carolina,” Duncan said to loud cheers from the crowd.

The other couples were Keith Hicks and Wayne Berrier; Lorraine Howard and Marcel Spencer; Leslie Crissman and Jennifer Cape; and Lisa and Alicia Bell-Huddle.

Some of the couples came from out-of-town to get married.

Crissman and Cape said the employees at the Burke County Register of Deeds cheered them when they showed up last week to get their marriage license.

“I never thought equality would come to North Carolina,” Crissman said.

Hicks and Berrier had planned to marry in New York in April, but after the court ruling, Pride organizers decided to incorporate a wedding ceremony into the day’s events.

“Typically, we are not people who like to be out in front, but we have been together for 25 years and it’s time to step out of the shadows a little bit,” Hicks said.

The historical significance of the event made for a moving ceremony. Couples on stage and people in the audience wiped away tears.

Clark and Lusé leaned into each other and swayed as Corey Hodges sang “Marry Me” by Train and “When You Say You Love Me” by Josh Groban, still holding on to each other.

Afterward, as Tracy Chapman’s “Talking ‘Bout a Revolution,” played at a reception, Clark talked about the power of the ceremony.

“My heart is so full,” she said. “This is something we have wanted for so long. We weren’t going to leave the state.”

Lusé chimed in: “We felt like there was something wrong with that.”

Pride festivities continue at 11 a.m. today with a parade scheduled for 2 p.m.

Clark and Lusé will be there.

“On a just-married float,” Lusé said.

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