Meet The Parents — On The Frontline of Marriage Equality Fight

Parents involved in marriage equality suits show what's at stake for their children.

BY Trudy Ring

June 16 2014 6:00 AM ET

Sharene and Lori Watsen, Idaho
Sharene (left) and Lori Watsen of Boise with their son. Lori is a licensed clinical social worker and associate field director for Boise State University’s School of Social Work, and Sharene is a physician's assistant. They were married in New York in 2011. "We are two dedicated, loving parents who have made work and other life changes to be able to provide our son a loving, safe home, but Idaho does not recognize me as his legal parent, so I have no official status in his life," Lori Watsen said upon the filing of the Idaho suit.

 

Bill Hurtubise and Dean Palmer, Wisconsin
Bill Hurtubise and Dean Palmer of Racine want the security marriage will provide in allowing them both to be adoptive parents of their three children, ages 3, 4, and 5. "We're like any other normal family in Wisconsin," said Palmer. "We pay our taxes, we take our kids to dance class and sports practice, we fall asleep the second the kids go to bed. We shouldn't be treated any differently by the state." Well, one way in which they're different from most families: Hurtubise commutes four hours a day to work in Chicago so the kids can grow up in his hometown of Racine, close to friends, extended family, and their church.

 

Caren and Farrell Cafferata-Jenkins, Nevada
Caren (left) and Farrell Cafferata-Jenkins with sons Dean and Quinn. The women, who live in Carson City, are registered domestic partners in Nevada and married in California in 2008, but when they returned home, they felt the state "un-married" them, so they became plaintiffs in the suit challenging Nevada's marriage ban. "The document you get when you register as a domestic partner is identical to the document you get when you register an LLC [limited liability corporation]," Caren told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. "The state is recognizing a financial relationship between people. Marriage commemorates the public recognition of your relationship." The women, who have been together for 16 years, had a commitment ceremony in 2002, and the 2004 short film My Sister, My Bride documents this ceremony and their activism. Caren, a lawyer,  has served as executive director of the Nevada Commission on Ethics and is running for a Family Court judgeship in Washoe County; she will face incumbent Chuck Weller in November. Farrell is an instructor at the Nevada Academy of Sign Language.

 

Victoria Kidd and Christy Berghoff, Virginia
Victoria Kidd (left) and Christy Berghoff with daughter Lydia. They live in Winchester. Va. The women were married in Washington, D.C.,  in 2011, but Virginia does not recognize their union; they are plaintiffs in the suit seeking the right to marry for Virginia same-sex couples, which was heard in federal appeals court last month. The women have been together for a decade. “As soon as I met Christy I never looked back,” Kidd recalled in an interview for Lambda Legal's blog. Berghoff has worked for the Department of Justice in information technology for several years, and Kidd runs a home-based business doing career coaching and résumé writing, which allows her time to also be stay-at-home-mom to Lydia. In the blog an interview, they recalled an upsetting situation at the time of Lydia's birth. The nurse who was on duty the night Berghoff gave birth made it clear she was uncomfortable serving a same-sex couple, and she was rude and condescending in every interaction. The women believe a heterosexual couple would have received better treatment, and they are concerned about how the law will treat them as well. Kidd had to go to court to be named Lydia's legal co-custodian, but this designation does not make her a legal parent, and the women worry about whether it will be recognized in a medical emergency.

Shelton Stroman and Christopher Inness, Georgia
Shelton Stroman (left) and Christopher Inness with son Jonathan. The family lives in of Snellville, near Atlanta; Inness is a veterinarian and Stroman manages the Snellville Pet Resort, a business the men own together. “I think that my dads should be able to get married because they’re basically not different from anybody else,” Jonathan, whom they adopted shortly after his birth, told Georgia's Gwinnett Daily Post. “They can do the same things, and they are able to have the same jobs. They can do anything they want in life.”

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