Meet the Families Fighting for Marriage in Arizona
Lambda Legal has filed a federal lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for Arizona on behalf of seven same-sex couples and the surviving spouses of two additional same-sex couples challenging Arizona’s discriminatory marriage ban. Here are their stories:
Karen Bailey & Nelda Majors (Scottsdale)
Nelda Majors, 75, and Karen Bailey, 74, have been together for 56 years after meeting in college in Texas. After building a business together in Texas, they retired to Arizona, but soon found themselves raising Karen’s great grand-nieces, who came into their lives as toddlers and are now 15 and 21. They have seen each other through thick and thin, in sickness and in health, and after more than five decades of sharing a life together want to celebrate and secure their love for each other as other couples do: through marriage.
David Larance & Kevin Patterson (Phoenix)
David Larance, 35, and Kevin Patterson, 30, have been a loving, committed couple for seven years after they met at a bowling party. In 2013, they adopted two little girls, ages 4 and 7. Because of Arizona’s law, only Kevin has legal bonds as the girls’ adoptive father, and David has to prove his relationship with the girls almost every time he picks them up from school. Marriage would remove that humiliation and ensure the stability of the family David and Kevin are creating together by permitting David to adopt them, too.
Michelle Teichner & Barbara Morrissey (Phoenix)
Michelle (Mish) Teichner, 49, and Barbara (Barb) Morrissey, 59, have been a devoted couple for more than 10 years. They celebrated a Jewish commitment ceremony in 2006 and got married in New York in July, 2013. Mish became seriously ill in June, 2012, and had a second kidney transplant in January 2014. During Mish’s many hospitalizations, Barb repeatedly has been prevented from being at her side, and her right to be present is routinely questioned. Barb and Mish want Arizona to recognize their marriage so that neither will have to prove the right to be at the bedside of her wife.
Jessica & Kathy Young (Phoenix)
Kathy and Jessica (Jess) Young, 41 and 29 respectively, have been together for almost 10 years and are raising their 7-year-old son, Ian. They planned for Ian together and Jess is his birth mother. Kathy and Jess registered as domestic partners in Phoenix in 2009, and got married in New York in 2013. But because Arizona does not respect their marriage, Kathy has no legal relationship with Ian and is listed only as Ian’s “emergency contact” on his school enrollment forms. Jess and Kathy want Arizona to recognize their legal marriage so that Kathy’s true role as Ian’s other mother can be recognized and respected, and their whole family can be more secure.
Kelli Olson & Jennifer Hoefle Olson (Tucson)
Kelli Olson, 36, and Jennifer (Jen) Hoefle Olson, 38, have been together since 2004, held a private commitment ceremony in 2009 and got married in Minnesota in 2013. In 2012, they became the proud parents of twin girls. Even though the girls call Jen “Mommy” and Kelli “Momma”, Kelli has no legal relationship with the girls in Arizona because Jen is their birth mother. So Kelli needs to carry papers documenting her relationship with her daughters. To avoid confusion and stress about Kelli’s parental role, Jen is usually the parent who takes the girls to the doctor. Kelli and Jen want Arizona to recognize their marriage so that Kelli’s relationship with her daughters is respected, she can formalize her bonds with her daughters, and the family she and Jen are building together is more secure.
Vicente Talanquer & Kent Burbank (Tucson)
Kent Burbank, 45, and Vicente Talanquer, 51, have been together since 1994, when they met as graduate students at the University of Chicago. Vicente is a dual citizen of Mexico and Spain and a legal resident of the United States. They are the adoptive parents of Daniel, 12 and Martín,, 14. Kent and Vicente got married in Iowa in 2013. Because of Arizona’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples, only Vicente is a legal father to Daniel and Martín, although both fathers are equally immersed in their sons’ daily lives, helping with school work and related activities. Kent and Vicente want Arizona to recognize their marriage so that Kent can secure his role in Daniel’s and Martín’s lives legally and his sons will have the additional family stability and permanence they did not have in their early years in foster care.
C.J. and Jesús Castro-Byrd (Tempe)
C.J. and Jesús Castro-Byrd, 23 and 27 respectively, met in 2012 and soon each realized that he had met the love of his life. They got married in Seattle, Washington, in December, 2012. Jesús had come to the United States from Nogales, Sonora, Mexico with his family in 2001, when he was 14. Growing up in Arizona during the period when the anti-immigrant bill, SB1070, was passed, in tandem with the state’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples, Jesúshas felt doubly excluded and stigmatized. Since marrying C.J., Jesús has been able to apply for a green card so they can be secure in their ability to stay together, like other binational newlyweds can. But, he and C.J. worry about the stability of their family if their marriage continues not to be recognized by Arizona because they look forward to bringing children into their lives soon.
Patrick Ralph (Phoenix)
Patrick Ralph, 60, is the surviving husband of the late Gary Hurst, who died in August, 2013 at age 72. Patrick and Gary were together for 39 years. In 2008, Gary suffered a massive brain bleed and became severely disabled. Patrick took loving care of him until Gary’s death. Patrick and Gary got married in California shortly before the passage of Proposition 8 in 2008, which temporarily barred same-sex couples from marriage but did not affect the validity of Patrick and Gary’s marriage. Even though the couple was together for 39 years, married, and Patrick devoted himself to Gary’s care for five years, Patrick was not allowed to be listed as Gary’s husband on Gary’s death certificate. Patrick wants his marriage to Gary recognized so that critical document accurately reflects the facts of Gary’s life, including Gary’s relationship with and marriage to the man he loved.
Josefina Ahumada (Tucson)
Josefina Ahumada, 68, is the surviving wife of Helen Battiste, who died in January, at the age of 76, after heart surgery. Josefina and Helen met in 1991, over gardening. They pledged their commitment to each other in a religious ceremony in 1994, and got married in New Mexico in 2013. The pastor from their church in Tucson traveled to New Mexico to officiate at their wedding. After Helen’s death, the State of Arizona rejected Josefina’s application for Helen’s death certificate, accepting one from Helen’s son instead. Josefina described receiving that notice as “a slap to her face” while she was most intensely grieving her loss. She wants Arizona to recognize her marriage and the life that she and Helen built.