Corri and Dianne continue riding the marriage roller coaster in California
November 16, 2012
Corri Planck and Dianne Hardy-Garcia are riding a roller coaster. Since May 2008, when the California Supreme Court extended the freedom to marry to same-sex couples, Corri and Dianne, and other same-sex couples in California, have experienced momentous victories, crushing setbacks, and a relentless period of uncertainty about the future of marriage in the state.
Corri and Dianne have lived in California since 2003, when they capped off years of long-distance dating (Corri in Washington, Dianne in Texas) by relocating to Los Angeles, excited to live in a progressive state and ready to begin raising a family together. In 2004, during a special vacation getaway to Provincetown, Massachusetts, they exchanged rings and swapped vows, before they ever knew if they'd be able to make the engagement a reality. In 2006, they adopted two daughters, Tina and Raquel, who are now nine and ten years old.
On May 15, 2008, they were grateful and ecstatic to learn that after their four-year engagement, they'd finally be able to marry in California and share in the protections for their family that only marriage provides. Both women have volunteered and worked at local, state and national for LGBT organizations for many years - organizations like the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center, the Family Pride Coalition in Washington, DC, ACT-UP, and the Lesbian Gay Rights Lobby of Texas - so the day resonated particularly strong for them.
"Our daughters had known that we were not able to be married - and we would tell them that while we were married in our hearts, it wasn't a legal union," Dianne said. "So when we did finally have the chance to marry in front of them, it was amazing. It was a warm, beautiful day, surrounded by all of these friends supporting us, and it was a great thing for our daughters to see. They took it all in - they know what 'married' means, and it was wonderful for them to be a part of it."
Dianne said that their daughters only had one problem with the day: "They would have preferred that we wore big, white dresses," Dianne joked, adding, "Although our youngest daughter did say that she understood it wasn't our style."
The wedding, on September 20, 2008, was a beautiful day. And that's partly why it was so upsetting when, just two months later, anti-gay forces in the state pushed through Proposition 8, which resulted in a constitutional ban on marriage for same-sex couples and left 18,000 newly married couples, including Corri and Dianne - in limbo.
Corri worked on the No on 8 campaign to defeat the anti-gay Proposition 8, and that work - paired with the fact that Prop 8 was a direct affront on their family - was what made the pain from the loss run so deep.
"I was with lots of members of our community on election night, and it was devastating," Corri said. "There's no other way to put it than just completely, punched-in-the-gut devastating. To have people that you know or people that you live with or work with or who are parents at your kids' school - to think that people would have voted to say that your family wasn't equal to theirs, there's just no other word for it than 'devastating.'"
Another blow came when the state Supreme Court upheld the amendment in 2009 - although the Court did rule that the 18,000 marriages between same-sex couples that had been performed in the window where Californians had the freedom to marry would remain legal.
"It was great that we could get married in that time when we could," Dianne said. "It's great that we're still considered legally married. But we want that day again when everyone else who wants to marry - people who didn't because they didn't feel ready, or because they had only recently met and fallen in love - has that same opportunity to have those protections and respect that everyone else gets to enjoy."
Californians began seeing the first stages of recovery when they started to see hope in the state courts system. In August of 2010, District Court Judge Walker in California ruled Prop 8 unconstitutional, igniting a light for Corri, Dianne, and thousands of other couples.
And the wins have only gotten better and better since Judge Walker's 2010 ruling. In February 2012, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Prop 8 unconstitutional, and now, it faces potential review by the U.S. Supreme Court. If the Supreme Court does not take the case, the lower court rulings will stand and the freedom to marry will be restored in California.
"We just keep riding this roller coaster," Dianne said. "We're riding it every week now waiting to see what the Supreme Court decides in terms of hearing the case. We're constantly on this ride - that's what it's felt like throughout this entire process."
Even if the freedom to marry is restored in California, however, Corri and Dianne explained that marriage in the state alone would not be enough: The so-called Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibits federal respect of lawful same-sex marriages, must also be repealed. Because of DOMA, Corri and Dianne, and legally married same-sex couples across the country, are deprived of over 1,100 protections and responsibilities that different-sex couples receive.
"We're still recognized as married in California, but not by the federal government," Corri explained. "So it's a constant issue, and there are major costs associated with that."
"It's a huge concern for how we plan for our future regarding our family finances," Dianne added. "The fact that we won't be able to inherit each other's Social Security is a big deal. The fact that we have to find accountants who can file our tax returns in the particular way they have to be filed is a big deal. The fact that we have to worry about these financial issues as we try to figure out how to fund our daughters' college education is a big deal. These are very real issues."
The couple feels extremely blessed to have had the opportunity to marry, and it pains them to see couples in their state unable to share in that same blessing.
"There is something very powerful about being able to say, 'Yes, I'm married. Period.' - and to have that recognized by law," Corri said. "As much as we had fought for marriage in our different work in the past, and as much as we thought we understood what it was, until you're married, you can't even understand the full weight of it. The wedding is one thing, but the marriage is the long-term thing, and it is deeply meaningful. So when you deny that to people, you're really denying them their humanity, their basic human dignity."
Much of their passion for these issues stems from their love for their family, and their hope that their daughters grow up in a better world. They're already seeing how their daughters' generation is on the path toward building a better society.
"They're older now, so they understand more about civil rights struggles," Corri said about her daughters. "They understand that LGBT people lost the ability to marry in California. And they understand that it was wrong. Even a nine-year-old understands that it is wrong to give people a right and then take it away. That gives us great hope for the future."
If their daughters had their way, that future of a country where same-sex couples no longer have to fight for the freedom to marry would arrive as soon as possible.
"Our youngest daughter says that when she becomes president, she has three big things she's going to do," Dianne said. "She's going to ban smoking, ban certain mean jokes from her sister, and allow gay people to be married." Dianne laughed, marveling at the simple solution her daughter has proposed, knowing, truly, that the emotional roller coaster that same-sex couples in California and beyond have been riding for so long must end soon.
"Those are her plans for her presidency," Dianne said. "Hopefully, we won't have to wait until 2040."