Meet The Couples Fighting For Marriage Equality Before The Supreme Court

gay marriage

The Supreme Court announced today that it would hear four marriage equality cases in April, galvanizing both supporters and opponents of the freedom to marry.

Going before the Supreme Court is a momentous—and exhausting—challenge, as Prop 8 plaintiffs Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo told us recently.

 

But who are the plaintiffs coming before SCOTUS in April?

Below, meet some of the people whose lives are about to be turned upside down as they petition the highest court in the land to rule on the side of love, fairness and equality.


Kentucky

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There are six couples fighting for equality in the Bluegrass State, where voters approved a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in 2004. Among them are Timothy Love and Lawrence Ysunza, who have been together 34 years, but were denied a marriage license by the Jefferson County Clerk’s office in February.

It was a health scare that made Tim and Larry realize the importance of marriage: Last year Tim’s doctor found two major blockages in his heart and he was rushed to the hospital.

“We had always thought about the day that we’d start having health concerns, but we never took care of it,” Larry told Freedom to Marry. “You don’t think that one day you’re going to be 55 years old and have heart issues.”

Even as Tim was preparing for emergency surgery, the two had to file paperwork quickly that allowed Larry to make medical decisions on Tim’s behalf.

“We had a civil union from 2000 in Vermont, but that wasn’t respected in Kentucky,” explains Tim. “You shouldn’t have to draw up all of this extra paperwork—especially at such a stressful time. Other married couples don’t even have to think twice about that issue.”


Michigan

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April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse have four kids—including two with special needs—but as a same-sex couple they cannot adopt each other’s children or make emergency decisions for their family without extensive paperwork.

“In Michigan, we’re legal strangers,” Rowse, 50, told USA Today. “A judge could give our kids to anybody.”

DeBoer, who, like Rowse, is a nurse, says they love to help children who need a home “even temporarily.”

They stepped up to fight more for their children than themselves: “Jayne and I love our children as deeply as any other parent loves their kids. We just want our children to have the same protections all other children have, so that our kids know they can never be taken from either of us.”

The Michigan case is particularly bittersweet, as equality won the day in 2014 and more than 300 same-sex couples were able to marry before a judge stopped the weddings pending appeal.


Ohio

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The four plaintiff couples in Ohio were all married in states that have embraced equality, are looking for recognition at home. Among them are Brittani Henry and Brittni Rogers, who want both their names to appear on the birth certificate of their son, Jayseon.

But under current Ohio law, only the birth mother (Henry) can be listed.

“I want to be recognized as his parent,” says Rogers. “Simple things like taking him to school, taking him to get a driver’s license, if we ever want to travel out of state… He needs to know that I’m his parent as well.”


Tennessee

Thomas Kostura and Ijpe DeKoe

It’s a cruel irony that while gay people are welcome to defend our country, they can’t have their marriages recognized by it.

Ijpe DeKoe was an Army sergeant deployed in Afghanistan. When he returned to the States, he was stationed at Naval Support Activity Mid-South in Millington, Tennessee, and his husband, Thomas Kostura, joined him on base—even though Tennessee does not recognize their union.

“What surprised me was how welcoming everyone I met in Tennessee was, and how they themselves respected our marriage,” Kostura says. “Really at this point, it’s only been the state who hasn’t recognized our marriage.”

DeKoe says no one should have to choose their job based on how a state will treat their marriage; “In my case it’s military, but any couple that marries anywhere should be able to move to Tennessee without a problem.”

We couldn’t agree more.

Dan Avery is a writer-editor who focuses on culture, breaking news and LGBT rights. His work has appeared in Newsweek, The New York Times, Time Out New York, The Advocate and elsewhere.
@ItsDanAvery