Meet the plaintiffs standing up for marriage at the 5th Circuit this week
January 08, 2015
This Friday, on January 9, the United States Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit will hear oral arguments in cases from three different states - Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi - seeking the freedom to marry and respect for marriages legally performed in other states. The cases involve plaintiff couples who are standing up for their freedom to marry in their state - or speaking out about why they need the legal respect for their marriage where they live.
Check out profiles of the plaintiff couples from the various cases.
Cleo DeLeon & Nicole Dimetman • Austin, TX
Cleo and Nicole have been together for nearly 13 years, after building a wonderful friendship in San Antonio. In 2010, Cleo – who has served in the Texas National Guard – gave birth to the couple’s first child, and now, Nicole, a lawyer, is due to deliver their second child in early 2015.
But when the couple celebrates the arrival of their second child, the last thing they want to feel is fear about what could happen if something were to happen to one of them, and that is why the family is joining the Texas marriage case before the 5th Circuit and arguing for the freedom to marry. Soon, they hope, no loving, committed couple will have to feel uncertain about their family's status.
Joce Pritchett & Carla Webb • MS
Joce and Carla love Mississippi and raising their two daughters there – they never regret choosing to call this state. However, every day they are reminded that their marriage – made legal in 2013 in Maine – is not respected in the state where they’ve built their lives.
“Part of being able to work and raise a family here, with all the safety and security we deserve as equal citizens, is our right to have our marriage recognized by the state,” Joce said. That’s why the couple is putting their family front and center in Mississippi’s marriage lawsuit, and will be fighting for the freedom to marry before the 5th Circuit. They hope that the 5th Circuit will see their family as they see it – perfect and perfectly legal.
Derek Penton & Jon Robicheaux • New Orleans, LA
Although Derek Penton has been granted the power to officiate weddings in Louisiana, his marriage to his husband, Jon Robicheaux, is not respected in his home state. The couple married in Iowa in 2012, but their home state of Louisiana does not respect them as husbands.
"Louisiana is our home," Derek said. "And when you can't get married in your state, it makes you feel unwelcome in your home. We have to jump through hoops to do things that should be simple - filing taxes, being respected as a family. All of those hoops tell us one thing, again and again: You are excluded."
Mark Phariss & Vic Holmes • Plano, TX
Mark and Vic have been together for more than 17 years, spending 13 years long-distance while Vic served in the United States Air Force. Now, they’re speaking out for the freedom to marry with their trailblazing case, and they know they have the support of so many behind them.
They couple says they are fighting for their ability to marry for one simple reason -- they love each other deeply, and desperately want to share their commitment to each other in front of their family and friends in Texas, the state they love.
Courtney & Nadine Blanchard • Raceland, LA
In December of 2011, Courtney and Nadine embarked on the process of having a child together. They both wanted to be a part of the process, so Courtney provided the eggs and Nadine carried the child. They said that it was meant to be – they found out they were pregnant after their first try, in April 2012. “The love we have for this child is something no one can explain,” Courtney. said “He is our world, and we are his.”
However, their son is not legally Courtney’s. Only married couples whose marriages are respected in Louisiana can apply for second-parent adoption in their state. Courtney and Nadine are hoping that future judges in Louisiana will make the right decisions and make their dream come true. Courtney said that dream is for their son as well as for them: “We want to be able to tell our son that we never gave up and did everything we could to fight for equality for all families.”
Jacqueline & Lauren Brettner • New Orleans, Louisiana
Jackie and Lauren had the best Valentine’s Day ever in 2012 – because that’s the day they got married in New York. Although they couldn’t think of a better way to spend that day, when they returned to their home in New Orleans, Louisiana, their marriage was not valid in their state.
As the couple raises their first child, who will turn two years old this April, they are repeatedly faced with difficult decisions and scary consequences as a result of their marriage not being legal in their home state. That’s why they’re hoping their marriage will soon be respected in Louisiana – so that they no longer have to worry about the welfare of their child, and they can be a real family once and for all.
Becky Bickett & Andrea Sanders • Pass Christian, MS
Becky and Andrea met 10 years ago, and have been together ever since. The couple has two baby boys together, and they love raising their family in the state that they’ve both called home for fifteen years. However, their state refuses to let them legally marry, and that means that Becky and Andrea are consistently worrying about what could happen to their family if something were to happen to one of them.
Right now, only Becky is the legal parent of both of their sons, and Andrea is a legal stranger to the boys that she is helping to raise. That’s just one of the reasons that the couple knows that the 5th Circuit needs to rule in favor of the freedom to marry – for their family and for families like theirs across the state of Mississippi.
Henry Lambert & Carey Bond • New Orleans, Louisiana
After over thirty years together, Henry and Carey decided that it was definitely time for them to tie the knot and marry each other in New York in 2011. The decision was brought about by the heart condition that Henry, who is a Vietnam War Veteran, developed over the previous years -- a that requires surgery and other regular treatments. The couple wanted to make sure that they were protected in case anything happened to Henry.
And, yet, the couple still is not fully protected in Louisiana, because their marriage is not valid there. That’s why the couple is holding out hope that the 5th Circuit will rule on the right side of history and finally recognize their love and commitment once and for all.
Andrew Bond & Nick Van Sickels • New Orleans, Louisiana
Andrew and Nick have been together for 12 years, staying together through a year of long-distance dating when Nick, a doctor, treated Hurricane Katrina evacuees in Texas. The couple has a child who was adopted in 2012 – but was legally adopted only by Nick. The state of Louisiana prohibits unmarried couples from jointly adopting – and, because Nick and Andrew’s marriage is not respected, Andrew does not have full rights to their child.
The worry for their beloved child is why Andrew and Nick are fighting for respect for their marriage at the 5th Circuit. They hope that, soon, the court will rule to make their family legal.
Harvard Scott & Sergio March Prieto • New Orleans, LA
Harvard and Sergio, who have been together for almost 17 years, have crossed international waters for each other. Sergio is originally from Spain, and the couple married in Vermont in 2010. After the United States Supreme Court repealed the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, Sergio was given a green card as a spouse of an American. “We were ecstatic,” Sergio said.
However, their home state of Louisiana does not respect their marriage, even though the country does. That’s why the couple is hoping that the 5th Circuit will rule to allow their marriage to be legal in the state – as well as the country – they call home.
Robert Welles & Garth Beauregard • New Orleans, LA
25 years ago, Robert and Garth met in Key West, Florida. Mutual friends assured them that they would be perfect together, and it turns out they were right: the two have been inseparable ever since. The couple moved to New Orleans five years ago, and the two of them truly do make a perfect pair. However, although they have been together for a quarter of a century, they cannot legally express that commitment through marriage.
Robert and Garth can barely believe that their long, loving relationship can’t culminate in marriage in their home state. “It is important for us to have the protection that marriage allows,” Robert said. “We want to be acknowledged for whom we are and what we have accomplished together. We have come so far, from hiding in the closet to being able to hold hands in public. It's now time for me to say with my head held high this is my husband.”