Stories of love, life in Supreme Court gay marriage fight

WASHINGTON (AP) — A middle-of-the night trip to the emergency room, with her 9-month-old son coughing and laboring to breathe, gave Pam Yorksmith her latest reminder of why she took up the fight for same-sex marriage.

Before baby Orion could be treated for croup, the hospital had to call his birth mother — Yorksmith’s wife, Nicole — “to get permission to treat my child,” Yorksmith said.

Although the Yorksmiths started their family together through artificial insemination, hospital records and Orion’s birth certificate don’t list Pam Yorksmith as a parent.

The Yorksmiths are among the 19 men and 12 women whose same-sex marriage cases will be argued at the Supreme Court on April 28. Many of them spoke to The Associated Press about their cases.

A ruling, expected in June, could determine whether gay marriage should be legal across the United States. Gay marriage is currently legal in 37 of the 50 states, plus the District of Columbia capital district, largely due to a series of lower court rulings that have overturned state bans.

Gay and lesbian Americans in the 13 states that continue to define marriage as the union of a man and a woman confront obstacles across the course of their lives, from adoption to hospital visits to death benefits.

The Yorksmiths live in Kentucky and work in Ohio, both states that ban same-sex marriage. That complicates school enrollment, benefits, travel and tax matters, as well as medical care.

Some of the plaintiffs sued for the right to marry, while others are fighting to have states recognize a marriage performed elsewhere. They include young parents and grandparents, as well as a couple of grieving men who already have lost their life partners.

Some have never known a moment’s fear about living life as an openly gay person.

Others, like Luke Barlowe and Jimmy Meade, still don’t hold hands in public, even after more than 40 years together.

“We grew up in an era where you didn’t show your affection for a same-sex person,” Barlowe said. “We’ve never gotten over that.”

Barlowe and Meade met in 1968 at a gay bar in Kentucky. Both retired, they married in Iowa in 2009 but still live in Kentucky.

“We wanted to do this not for us — it does nothing for us — but we wanted to do it for the kids coming up behind us,” Barlowe said.

April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse were not planning to challenge Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage when they went to court to win the right to jointly adopt each other’s children. A federal judge transformed their case into one about the right to marry.

They live with their four adopted children, ages 2 to 6, and a foster child. Each woman has adopted two kids, but Michigan ties joint adoption to marriage.

“We decided that not doing anything would do more harm to our children than standing up and saying we’re going to fight,” DeBoer said.

DeBoer is a part-time neonatal nurse while Rowse works full time as an emergency room nurse. They hope to adopt a fifth child soon.

“These young children usually have medical needs,” DeBoer said. “We have training. We have room. We have the love.”

In 2013, Jim Obergefell and John Arthur were watching TV news about the Supreme Court striking down part of a federal anti-gay marriage law.

Obergefell leaned over, kissed the man he had loved for more than two decades, and said, “Let’s get married.”

They knew they didn’t have much time. Arthur was in the final stages of Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Ohio voters had banned same-sex marriage. So within weeks, a medically equipped plane carried them to Maryland, where Arthur’s aunt waited to officiate. Arthur lay on a gurney as the couple exchanged their vows inside the plane, on the tarmac.

Less than four months later, Arthur died at age 48. Obergefell was listed on the death certificate as his surviving spouse; the couple had won a court order before Arthur’s death to make it so.

That victory was overturned by a federal appeals court, which upheld the same-sex marriage bans in Ohio, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.

None of it was a fight Obergefell and Arthur were looking for.

“No one could ever accuse us of being activists,” Obergefell said, smiling. “We just lived our lives. We were just John and Jim.”

 

 

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

 

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