Winston-Salem Pride organizers’ journey comes full circle

by Daniel Schere

Keith Hicks and Wayne Berrier have been together nearly a quarter of a century and the couple says that last Friday’s ruling that legalized same-sex marriage in North Carolina still hasn’t sunk in.

“We just believed that it would be one of the last states that it ever happened in, and for it to have actually happened fairly early on we were very excited about,” Berrier said.

Hicks also described the feeling as “surreal,” and said they had gone to the courthouse one day earlier to get a marriage license, thinking the ruling would come then. They eventually got theirs on Monday.

“For us personally, there are so many benefits that come with that license,” he said. “It’s incredible. Being together 25 years, it’s hard to imagine that we have the same rights as opposite gender marriages. It’s hard to express it in words.”

The couple had made previous one attempt at getting a marriage license in California but was unsuccessful.

“We had planned to go to San Francisco when it first came to San Francisco when they had the ruling,” Hicks said. “To get married we bought our license and everything and the day that we were going to fly out they stopped it all and so we’ve been a little gun shy. So up until we got that piece of paper in our hand, we wanted to be very cautious in how excited we got.”

Hicks said that their original plan prior to Friday’s ruling was to wait until April 25, 2015, their 25th anniversary, and get married in another state.

Hicks and Berrier met in a grocery store in 1990 and lived together in Clemmons prior to moving to Winston-Salem in July. Two years ago they helped found the nonprofit organization Pride Winston-Salem, which grew out of another LGBT rights group called Equality Winston-Salem. Hicks said last year’s event was a large success and they are expecting a much bigger crowd this year.

“Last year police reported close to 8,000 in participation, this year with the ruling this past week and everything that’s going on and the added publicity just by all of the reporters and news and media and everything else, we’re expecting easily between 10 and 15,” he said.