The Faces of Federal Prop. 8
BY Andrew Gumbel
July 02 2009 12:00 AM ET
How did you come into contact with Chad Griffin and the American Foundation for Equal Rights [organizers of the federal lawsuit]?Perry: I know Chad through the professional work I do as executive director of a state agency. He had a relationship to this office and knew about First 5 before I was here. We had a conversation about First 5 one day toward the end of April, and after we completed that conversation, he shared with me that he belonged to this foundation and was looking at supporting a project that would help with the gay marriage fight. In the course of our discussion it became clear our situation was a story the Foundation wanted to tell, and needed to tell to help advance the cause.
Was it difficult to decide to put yourselves forward as named plaintiffs?Perry: Sandy and I spent a considerable amount of time looking at this and asking ourselves and the family if we could participate and support the effort. It took a little time -- our children are teenagers and getting time with them isn't easy. But we were able to work through each of their issues and interests. We must have spent a week or two thinking about possible outcomes, good and bad. But then went back to the board and Chad and said if you'd like us to participate we'd really like to help.
Did you consider the specific value of being a gay couple with children, something that will help rebut the argument from your opponents that marriage has to be between a man and a woman because that is the only way to bring about procreation?Perry: For us, it was more about being an individual family and figuring out we could do this. We left it up to Chad and the board to decide if we could be useful to them. Stier: Let me say also, many of our gay friends have children. For us a gay relationship that has children is the norm. We do not feel unique.
Were the children apprehensive, or accepting, or excited about the role you are playing?Perry: I'm the one who brought the twins to our marriage -- they are 14 now. They don't know any other lifestyle than the one we are in. They have a very unconditional response to the idea that we should have more rights. They said: Of course it should be better and of course you should help. They are very trusting. The older kids, who are 18 and 20, are in a very different place in the world, they are adults. Stier: My children lived their first years with a heterosexual married couple as parents. They see what they have now more as a stepfamily. But they both said immediately and quite strongly that they really support equal rights for all people including gay people. I told them this could put us under some scrutiny, with people wanting to know more about us, and about you. They feel the issue itself was an important one, and agreed to support us. I don't know that they could completely take that in. Perry: My kids had a similar reaction. At their age, part of this is exciting to them -- they are hopeful and almost a little wide-eyed.
How are you feeling about the legal process, starting with this opening hearing?Perry: We have cautious optimism. We want to be patient -- it's going to take some time -- but we also want to be excited and hopeful. Stier: We are certainly looking forward to making progress and we have tremendous confidence in our counsel.