A 74-year-old gay rights supporter has been charged with assault for kissing an anti-gay preacher during a pride event in North Carolina.

Joan Parker, who attended last Saturday’s event with her husband, says she kissed the preacher on the cheek while he screamed that gay people would go to hell.

The event, in Salisbury, was attended by 2,000 gay rights supporters and 200 gay rights opponents, including preacher James Edward Belcher.

Speaking to Associated Press, Mrs Parker said: “He was just waving his arms and has a Bible in one hand, up and down, and screaming at the top of his lungs, ‘sodomites’ and ‘you’re going to hell’. I thought he needed a hug. So I gave him a hug.”

Mr Belcher told the news service that she wrapped her arms around him before kissing him and called said it was “just one of many attempts to silence the preaching to those in need of salvation who practice a death style that they call a lifestyle”.

He has decided to press charges. Mrs Parker is expected to appear in court in September for simple assault and could receive a 30-day community sentence.