Meet the plaintiffs fighting for marriage at the 7th Circuit this week
August 25, 2014
This week, on August 25, the United States Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit will hear oral arguments in cases from two different states - Wisconsin and Indiana -seeking the freedom to marry and respect for marriages legally performed in other states. The cases involve more than a dozen different 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 fifteen of the plaintiff couples from the various cases, which will be argued beginning 9:30CT on Tuesday, August 26:
Tara Betterman & Melody Layne
In 2012, Tara and Melody said "I do" in Central Park, NY - and now, after having been together for more than five years, the women are fighting to be respected by their home state of Indiana, joining with the ACLU's Midori Fujii lawsuit. Together, the women are raising Melody's biological five-year-old daughter, sharing their home, their finances, and their parenting responsibility and generally building a life together.
Tara and Melody should not have had to travel to New York in order to marry - and they shouldn't have to fight to be respected in the Hoosier State. That's why they're hopeful that soon, thanks to Hoosiers from across the state coming together in support of the freedom to marry, all same-sex couples in the state are able to legally marry and be treated fairly at home.
Carol Schumacher & Virginia Wolf
Eau Claire, WI
Carol and Virginia have been together since their very first date in 1975. They were the first couple to join the Eau Claire domestic partner registry in 2009, and got married on their anniversary in December by a judge in Minnesota. As Virginia puts it, “We’ve been inching towards matrimony for 38 years!”
Now, as lead plaintiffs in the ACLU's legal challenge Wolf v. Walker, they're more excited than ever to be bringing Wisconsin closer and closer to the freedom to marry. "The main reason I want to marry Virginia," Carol told Wisconsin Unites for Marriage, "is that it would be an affirmation of our relationship and our family.”
Gregory Hasty & Christopher Vallero
Hamilton County, IN
As a committed couple for more than 8 years, Gregory and Christopher know that it's time for marriage in Indiana. Gregory is studying for a nursing degree while he works as a surgical technologist, and Christopher works for a medical research company - and they are building their lives in Indiana.
The American Civil Liberties Union, which is working with Gregory and Christopher as plaintiffs in their Midori Fujii federal lawsuit, explained more: "They lead shared lives comparable to that of a married couple, yet they are denied the many benefits of marriage, such as home ownership, decision-making rights during a medical emergency and adoption. ... They are stigmatized by Indiana’s refusal to allow them to wed."
Midori Fujii lived in a committed relationship with her partner Kristie Kay Brittain for more than 11 years, until Kris passed away in 2011. In 2008, Kris was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and throughout multiple surgeries, hospitalizations and treatments, her love Midori became her primary caregiver.
Despite all of these clear examples of love and commitment - partners in every sense of the word - Midori was not respected as anything more than a friend to Kris, and when Kris passed away, Midori was required to pay more than three hundred thousand dollars in inheritance tax on all of the property Kris left to Midori, including the home they shared in Indiana. If Midori and Kris were not a same-sex couple, Kris would have paid nothing.
"The State’s refusal to recognize her marriage to Kris does not just cause Midori economic hardship," the ACLU explained about Midori's involvement as lead plaintiff in the Midori Fujii federal lawsuit. "In her time of grief, she is denied the comfort and dignity of being acknowledged as Kris's widow."
Kami Young & Karina Willes
West Milwauke, WI
This spring, Kami and Karina welcomed their first child, a baby girl, into the world. And despite having two people ready and eager to welcome her, love her, and care for her, only one parent - Kami - is legally respected in the state of Wisconsin. That's partly because of Wisconsin's law that denies the freedom to marry to same-sex couples and respect for legally married couples like Kami and Karina, who said "I do" in Minnesota last year.
"I just never thought this would ever happen in my lifetime," Kami told Wisconsin Unites for Marriage about getting married. "You get so used to being a second-class citizen that when you’re not anymore, it’s overwhelming." Now, the women are fighting with the ACLU as plaintiffs in Wolf v. Walker to ensure that same-sex couples across Wisconsin are granted the same respect and are treated equally at home.
Pamela Lee & Candace Batten-Lee
Officer Pamela Lee and her wife Candace joined with other first responder plaintiff couples in filing a federal lawsuit, Lee v. Pence, earlier this year. As a military veteran and now police officer for more than 22 years, Pamela knows that all families in Indiana deserve freedom. Pamela and Candace married in California in October 2013, but their home state of Indiana does not respect their marriage. It's caused real problems for the couple, as Pamela is unable to add Candace as her spouse and primary beneficiary, and Candace will not receive support from the Pension Fund as Pamela's spouse.
Salud Garcia & Pam Kleiss
Salud and Pam have been together 18 years and are now living in Madison with their 12-year old daughter. They met when they were both working for the American Association of Retired Persons, with Pam based in Seattle, and Salud based in California. A co-worker of Pam’s, who was also a friend of Salud’s, would forward funny or interesting emails from Salud to Pam and eventually, the two met in person. "You're Salud from the emails!," Pam said.
After that meeting, Pam and Salud built a close friendship, which later developed into a romance. Now, the two are domestic partners in Wisconsin, but they know that they need the freedom to marry to be fully protected. They know that marriage discrimination in their state hurts from first-hand experience: Several years ago, when Salud worked for the State Bar, with Pam taking care of their daughter, Pam became ill. Pam had a limited health insurance policy, and Salud's employer was not required to extend coverage to Pam. The complication cost them significantly - but had they been an opposite-sex married couple, Pam could have been covered.
Experiences like that have contributed to the women's decision to get involved with Wolf v. Walker, the ACLU's lawsuit seeking the freedom to marry in Wisconsin.
Monica Werhle & Harriet Miller
Allen County, IN
Since 1977 - more than 37 years! - Monica and Harriet have been a loving, committed couple who have built their lives together in Indiana. They have built a family of three adult children, four grandchildren, and many great nieces and nephews. And they have given back to their Hoosier community time and time again through their work with the Fort Wayne Women's Bureau.
As they got older, Monica and Harriet fear for the future, and they're worried that since they are not legally married, their family will not be protected in the event that an emergency strikes their family. The ACLU of Indiana, which is working with Monica and Harriet as plaintiffs in their Midori Fujii lawsuit, explained more: "During the course of their relationship as a couple they have had to expend significant sums of money to pay attorneys to create legal documents to secure the right to make medical and other important life decisions for the other person in the event of incapacity. If they were married, such documents would not be necessary."
Johannes Wallman & Keith Borden
Together for more than 15 years, Johannes and Keith have walked a long path toward their lives together in Wisconsin. They met in New York City in 1998, began dating, and fell in love. Johannes, who was born in Germany and raised in British Columbia in Canada, had a temporary visa, which prompted the men to move to Canada, where they legally married once the country passed the freedom to marry for all couples. Teaching work brought the men to California and later, to Wisconsin, where Johannes now teaches at UW-Madison while Keith is a singer and yoga teacher.
Wisconsin Unites for Marraige explained more: "Johannes and Keith knew they were moving to a state that would not recognize their marriage. They still see themselves as married. However, the State of Wisconsin treats their relationship as though it ceased to exist for legal purposes, even though they had built a life in reliance on the protections and obligations that marriage provides. Had they been a different-sex couple, Keith and Johannes could have counted on the continuity and stability that state and federal law provides a different-sex married couple when they move from state to state. Instead, Wisconsin’s constitutional marriage ban has simply erased Keith and Johannes’ commitment to each other as far as the State is concerned and even erased certain federal law protections that are available only to couples whose marriages are legally recognized by the home state."
Teresa Welborn & Beth Piette
For more than 25 years, Officer Teresa Welborn has served her community as an officer with the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, and despite this, she is unable to list the love of her life - and her wife, Elizabeth - as her spouse and primary beneficiary. As a result, the Pension Fund won't recognize Elizabeth, simply because Beth and Teresa are a same-sex couple. The women, who married in Hawaii last December and will celebrate their first wedding anniversary December 13, are plaintiffs in Lee v. Pence, along with several other first responders and their wives.
Judi Trampf and Katy Heyning
Last month, Judi and Katy celebrated their 25th anniversary, but despite being domestic partners in Wisconsin, they're still not married - Wisconsin laws deny them the same freedom that so many other couples can share in.
The women have already seen the real impact that denial can have: Twelve years ago, Katy had a seizure while she and Judi were traveling, and although the women had drawn up power-of-attorney papers for health care, they didn't have the documents on them, and subsequently, hospital staff deferred any further health care decisions to Katy’s brother, her closest living relative. And although Katy had trouble concentrating and responding after the seizure, medical providers continued to question her, failing to address any questions to Judi.
“If we were legally married, we’d know we have the same protections as other couples,” Judi told Wisconsin Unites for Marriage about why she and Katy joined the ACLU's Wolf v. Walker legal challenge. “We would have property, visitation, and other rights. We wouldn’t have to wonder what was covered if one of us is ill or dies. Judi is the love of my life, and we’ve been together in sickness and in health. We want recognition of that."
Scott & Rodney Moubray-Carrico
New Albany, IN
At the core of Scott and Rodney's motivation to win marriage for same-sex couples in Indiana is the love they share for their six-year-old son. They want their son to understand that his family is no different than other Hoosier families - and that it's important to stand up for what you believe in. The ACLU of Indiana explains on their site about the couple, who have been together for 12 years and are plaintiffs in the Midori Fujii case, "Their six year-old son is beginning to understand the concept of marriage and its unequaled role in defining a family. He knows he and his parents are a family, but he does not understand why his friends’ parents are allowed to marry and his parents are not. He is stigmatized and his family is demeaned by the fact that his parents are excluded from marriage."
Roy Badger & Garth Wangemann
Roy and Garth, who have been together for 37 years, had a church commitment ceremony in 2009 with a few friends, their pastor, and the pastor's wife. Looking back on it, Roy told Wisconsin Unites for Marriage, "It’s bittersweet because it felt like something we were doing in secret."
Several years ago, Garth was diagnosed with lung cancer and had to have most of his right lung removed. At the suggestion of Garth’s surgeon, they had papers drawn up, granting Roy power of attorney. Following Garth’s surgery in August 2011, he had a medical emergency, and his doctors put him into a medically induced coma to allow his body to stabilize. The coma lasted more than three weeks - and during that time, Roy included Garth’s father in meetings with the medical team to discuss his treatment. Garth's father sought several times to override Roy's power-of-attorney documents. That would not have even been possible if the men could have legally married.
That's part of why Roy and Garth, together for nearly four decades, are fighting for marriage in Wisconsin at the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals this summer in the Wolf v. Walker suit with the ACLU.
Karen & Tammy Vaughn-Kajmowicz
Karen and Tammy are raising three young children, all under the age of 8, in Evansville, Indiana, the city that they love in the state where they live. Karen has faithfully served her Hoosier community for more than 18 years with the Evansville Police Department, most recently working in the Narcotics Division, and all she wants is the freedom to fully protect Tammy and their family. The women married in October 2013 in Iowa, and despite this, they have been declined by the Pension Fund, which cites an Indiana law barring same-sex couples from marriage as the reason for denial. As plaintiffs in Lee v. Pence, Karen and Tammy are now fighting for the legal respect that their family - and families like theirs - deserve in Indiana.
"I think history is going to prove to be the judge of it," Sgt. Vaughn-Kajmowicz told a local news station, who featured her family. She continued, "I mean we will see another victory here. But honestly if we don't win, it just gives the Supreme Court more incentive to hear our case and hear it quicker. So, I don't think we can lose."
Charvonne Kemp & Marie Carlson
After more than 7 years together, Charvonne and Marie are proud to work as plaintiffs in Wolf v. Walker. They're fighting for all Wisconsinites, and after raising two boys, they want to send the message that all families are equal in the state.
“I feel that the commitment I’ve made to Charvonne and the boys, and the one they’ve made to me, should be allowed to be legal,” Marie said to Wisconsin Unites for Marriage. “I want to proudly walk with my family. I want to do it the right way and the right way is marriage.”