Blogpost #6: Love & Marriage

Tonight the internet is an explosion of news: the tragedies and damage from the earthquake in Nepal, the public protests and demonstrations in Baltimore, Maryland, and the outpouring of support in Washington, DC as people gather on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court for tomorrows marriage equality cases. 

I remain cautiously optimist about marriage equality and how tomorrow will play out. It could get exciting very quickly, especially after the Edie Windsor's victory against DOMA two years ago. The support is there! With a record high of 60% of Americans in favor of marriage equality it feels like the time is now. We are all within reach of the marital and legal protections we need and deserve, hopefully #SCOTUS will realize that and rule in favor of equal marriage rights for all. 

Source: The Human Rights Campaign. 

Source: The Human Rights Campaign. 

The Plaintiffs: Four states are represented: Michigan, Tennessee, Ohio, and Kentucky. 

From Michigan: April & Jayne. 

April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse have been in a loving and committed relationship for over a decade. Both women are nurses who work for Detroit-area hospitals. April is a neo-natal intensive care nurse; Jayne is an emergency room nurse. They are also foster parents who are licensed by the State of Michigan. Together, they took in four special-needs newborns who were either abandoned or surrendered at birth. April and Jayne wished to adopt these children together, but were prevented from doing so because Michigan’s adoption code prohibits unmarried couples from adopting children jointly. Michigan law also bans same-sex couples from marrying, leaving April and Jayne with no opportunity for joint legal rights to the children they are raising together. April adopted the couple’s two daughters while Jayne adopted their two sons.

April and Jayne took legal action to seek the same protections for their children that are afforded to opposite-sex couples. Subsequently, they included in their case, a challenge to the same-sex marriage ban in Michigan. DeBoer v. Snyder is their federal court challenge to Michigan’s laws forbidding same-sex marriage and same-sex second-parent adoptions.

(Text & Image via: The National Marriage Case). 

From Tennessee: Sophy & Valeria! 

Sophy and Valeria Jesty are both professors of veterinary medicine at the University of Tennessee. Their daughter, Emilia, was the first baby born in Tennessee to have a woman listed as her “father” on her birth certificate. The couple married in New York, but their home state of Tennessee does not recognize their marriage. The couple filed a lawsuit in 2013 to ask that the state recognize their marriage. Sophy told reporters: “It affects my rights because I actually don’t have any legal rights as her parent at this time and that’s why we’ve been fighting so hard, so many families, like ours, can have the legal acknowledgement of their real relationships."

(Text & Image via: The New Civil Rights Movement). 

From Ohio: Britini & Brittani

An impending birth prompted Brittni Rogers and Brittani Henry to get married. Worries about what the future holds pushed them to join legal cases now before the U.S. Supreme Court. They’ve been together since 2008, and Henry was pregnant when they traveled to New York to be wed Jan. 17, 2014. Jayseon was born in Cincinnati that June. The couple says the joys of marriage and their son’s birth are clouded by anxiety about not having Rogers recognized as his parent, too. Ohio doesn’t accept their marriage and allows only one of them on Jayseon’s birth certificate.

(Text & Image via: LGBTQ Nation). 

Also from Ohio: Kelly & Kelly! 

Kelly Noe and Kelly McCracken say they give their baby daughter a lot of love. They want the nation's highest court to give them more legal status. The 32-year-olds have been a couple since 2009 and were married in 2011 in Massachusetts. Noe gave birth to Ruby 10 months ago.

"All we do is love Ruby to pieces, and as far as I'm concerned, that's all a child needs, is to be brought up with love," said McCracken. "So I think we're doing a pretty good job." But they don't want Ruby as she grows up to face issues stemming from the lack of legal recognition of her parents' marriage.

Neither Kentucky, the state where they live, nor neighboring Ohio, where both work, recognizes same-sex marriage, listing only one parent on birth certificates. The family is among those from four states suing for marriage rights. "We don't want Ruby to grow up and feel like her family is so different," said McCracken, a musician who works for a small business. Noe, a Cincinnati children's hospital employee, is confident Ruby will flourish, regardless. "I feel like she's going to be pretty strong," Noe said. "She'll be able to deal with things good and bad when they come her way."

(Text & Image via: AP)

 

From Kentucky: Pam & Nicole! 

Pam York and Nicole Smith met at a party in 2006 and married in California in 2008. “Being married did not change who we were. It just solidified the love that we had for one another and the commitment that we had for each other. For me, it made me feel like we were more of a family,” said Nicole. They moved into a house in Kentucky near the Ohio border, so as to be close to extended family, and decided it was time to start a family of their own. They combined their last names, “York” and “Smith,” so that their whole family could share the same name when they had children.

“It took us about six months to get pregnant with Grayden. When we found out about Grayden, it was Valentine’s Day and it was the best Valentine’s Day gift ever. We could not wait for him to come into the world, we were so ecstatic. He came into the world busting away and it’s been the most fulfilling thing since for the last four years of our lives,” said Pam.

They wanted to ensure that Grayden had the best medical care possible, so they chose to give birth in a hospital known for being one of the best in the area. However, because the hospital was in Ohio, Pam was not recognized on Grayden’s birth certificate, even though the couple was legally married.

In order to ensure that their family was fully recognized and that Grayden was protected, the two had to jump numerous expensive legal hurdles -- taking money that could have gone to Grayden’s schooling or other future expenses -- to ensure that Pam is recognized with the authority to approve medical care, deal with child care workers and teachers, travel alone with their son, and otherwise address all of the issues parents deal with on a daily basis.

In June 2014, Nicole gave birth to their second son, Orion, and they are seeking to be able to put Pam’s name on his birth certificate in order to make sure their whole family is protected.

When Orion was four months old, he became gravely ill. It was late at night, and Pam took him to the hospital where he was born, and when she got there, they asked her who she was.  The attending nurse looked up Orion in their system and said that they only had Nicole listed as the mom – which was because Ohio refused from our son’s birth to recognize his second parent.  The nurse said that she would need to call Nicole to verify that Pam was his mother. Because their marriage is not recognized by Ohio and Orion’s second parent isn’t recognized by Ohio, their child’s emergency care had to wait until a hospital could confirm that Pam – Orion’s mom – could do what any other concerned parent would for a sick child. 

For Nicole, not having their marriage recognized has a profound effect on her sense of dignity. Nicole works in Ohio, a short drive from the family’s Kentucky home.  Neither the state where she lives nor the state where she works and had her children recognizes the Yorksmiths as a family.  “It makes me sad that the states where I live and work don’t fully recognize me as a human being. It makes me feel less than. It makes me feel like a second class citizen. It’s hurtful.”

(Text & Image via: LambdaLegal). 

You can find out more about each plaintiff behind the marriage equality cases online at the following resources: 

Wishing all of the plaintiffs luck, patience, love, and strength! 

Betsy