Barry Clayton and Michael Garaza

Barry Clayton and Michael Garaza have been together for ten years. They love to travel, host parties, and hang out with their family and friends.

Barry and Michael understand that sharing our stories and showing our faces helps the rest of America identify with our need to hold ourselves accountable to the promise of liberty, fairness and equality for all. "I know that we have changed the opinion of some heterosexuals who had definite skewed ideas of what it means to be gay," Barry said in response to a question from the Story Center.

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Terri Miller and Cindy Simms

Terri Miller, Ed.D., a high school administrator, and Cindy Simms, a ceramic artist, make up one of many longtime gay and lesbian couples who offer a shining example of love and commitment as we fight for marriage equality.

After working for 42 years, Terri worries that she will not be able to leave Cindy her teacher's pension or social security. These are benefits of marriage that are often crucial to the surviving partner's well-being. Although it does not cover the myriad of protections afforded couples by marriage, Freedom to Marry's partner the Human Rights Campaign worked with Congress to secure two important protections that assist gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans in the Pension Protection Act signed into law on August 17, 2006.

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Desiree Leone and Carolee Stoll

New Yorkers Desiree Leone, an EMS Coordinator, and Carolee Stoll, who works in College Support Services, have been together for 13 years. Like many who are able to share their stories, the couple considers themselves relatively fortunate. Desiree's employer offers domestic partner health benefits, and both have supportive families.

Still, Desiree and Carolee are not immune to the adverse effects of marriage discrimination. Said Desiree, "Since my medical benefits were much better than [Carolee's], we figured I would put her on mine." After two months of research and a lengthy approval process, the couple then found out about the additional tax implications of covering them both under Desiree's plan.

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Shelley Hayes and Mary Horvath

Montanans Shelley Hayes, Executive Director of an AIDS Service Organization, and Mary Horvath, an X-ray Technician, have been together four years. They have two sons and do not have access to the same protections for their children as their non-gay neighbors.

All children deserve the right to insurance coverage, social security, emergency care and inheritance rights. All families benefit from the intangible reassurance that comes from knowing that your family is safe and secure.

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Richard Phelps and Mitchell Wood

Richard Phelps, 69, and Mitchell Wood, 60, met before Stonewall in 1966. At the time, Richard was a necessarily closeted teacher in a Roman Catholic elementary school and Mitchell was an orderly in a local hospital.

Fans of live theatre, concerts and the ballet, they have season seats for the Unicorn Theatre in Kansas City and the Heartland Men's Chorus. They are also avid sports fans, with season tickets for the NFL Kansas City Chiefs and the AFL Kansas City Brigade.

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Denise and Treeva Liggett-Creek

Denise and Treeva Liggett-Creek of Maryland are raising two young daughters, Dominique, age 11, and Alexandra, age 6. Their decision to have a wedding was not only based on their mutual love and admiration for each other, but also a desire to share their commitment with family and friends.

Many committed same-sex couples share the same responsibilities as married couples. However, without the freedom to marry, they do not receive the same recognition or protections for their families as married couples. In fact, same-sex couples and their kids face tremendous discrimination.

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Lisa Laurey and Toni Williamson

Lisa Laurey and Toni Williamson have been together five years and have five beautiful children.

Although they share parenting duties, "We have had some reluctance by doctors who question our joint decision-making for the care and treatment of our children," says Lisa, a computer aided drafter and biological mother of two of their children. Regardless of the discrimination they face, they remain optimistic.

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Carmen and Anisia Machado

Carmen and Anisia Machado of New Jersey have been together for 30 years, but despite Carmen's commitment as an employee of the city, she can't cover her partner on her health insurance. Asisia, therefore, has no health benefits.

Carmen says, "The legal and civil rights enjoyed in the United States by ALL Americans are presently denied to us...Aren't we American?"

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