Evans v. Utah: Plaintiff Profiles

January 21, 2014

Matt and Tony
 

Matt and Tony

Matt, 38, and Tony, 33, are lifelong Utahans – Tony was born in and raised in West Jordan, and Matt’s family moved to Ogden when he was only a year old.  Matt is an attorney and Tony is the director of a nonprofit organization that serves homeless families.  “Tony and I share the same values, the same love for our families and for Utah, and a similar outlook on life,” says Matt.  “Our relationship was built on a strong foundation, and it’s only gotten better over our 11 years together.”

They had been contemplating starting a family when, in 2009, a struggling couple they knew who were expecting a baby approached them and asked if they would consider adopting the child.  Mr. Barraza and Mr. Milner resolved to being involved, dedicated parents and attended all of the pre-natal appointments with the birth mother, were present at their son Jesse’s birth, and Mr. Milner cut the umbilical cord.

Under Utah law, only one of them could legally adopt Jesse, so only Matt is a legal parent to the son they’re raising together. Jesse is now what his dads describe as “100 percent 4-year-old boy.”  Tony says, “He has tons of energy and loves to jump and run and throw balls and get dirty.”

Within days of getting married in Salt Lake City, Matt and Tony asked a court to allow Tony to become Jesse’s second legal parent.  But when the governor announced his intention to treat the marriages of same-sex couples as invalid, the family court judge postponed Matt and Tony’s adoption hearing.  They’re now in limbo, waiting to see what the courts do next.  Tony says, “Our son deserves the safety and security of being certain that if something happens to Matt, his other dad won’t be forced to disappear from his life too.”

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Stacia and JoNell
 

Stacia and JoNell

Stacia, 60, is semi-retired after teaching math to junior high and high school students for 30 years.  She now works part time at a community college, helping students with disabilities.  JoNell, 61, is a painter and works as human resources director at a nonprofit.  JoNell has lived in Utah since she was a child. Her family has been in Utah since the pioneer days.  Stacia grew up in Arizona and has lived in Utah for all of her adult life.  The couple lives on land that has been in JoNell’s family for generations, and many of their immediate neighbors are family members.

Having seen friends kept from being with each other in times of medical crisis, JoNell and Stacia had wills and powers of attorney drawn up in the hopes of protecting their ability to be with one another in the event of hospitalization.  In 2010, Stacia suffered a heart attack, and JoNell scrambled to locate a copy of their legal documents before they left for the hospital.  Although she was allowed to stay at Stacia’s side, hospital staff were hesitant to fully include JoNell, as they would a legal spouse.

After learning about the Kitchen decision, JoNell and Stacia rushed to downtown Salt Lake City that very day for a marriage license.  Only a few days later, Stacia had severe chest pains so they had to go to the hospital again.  This time, upon learning that JoNell and Stacia were married, the hospital staff was much more welcoming and included JoNell in all medical decision making conversations.   But now that the governor has announced that the state will not recognize their relationship – “We’re back at square one, with no idea what’s going to happen to us if one of us is hospitalized,” says Stacia.  “After 13 years together, we just want the security and peace of mind to know we can be there for each other in the hard times.”

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Donald and Fritz
 

Donald and Fritz

Donald Johnson, 61, proposed to Fritz Schultz, 58, on the Sunday after Thanksgiving in 1992.  They’d been dating since Labor Day, and when Fritz went out of town with his family for the holiday was when they both realized how much they meant to each other.  “That was the first time I’d really been away from him, and that’s when I realized I couldn’t let this one go,” Fritz says.

After Utah’s anti-gay marriage amendment was overturned, it was Fritz’s turn.  Don describes the moment: “We were eating breakfast and he reached across the scrambled eggs, took my hand, and said, ‘So, want to get married?” They spent the next day shopping for rings. After standing in line for eight hours in 20-degree weather, Don and Fritz were finally legally married. “I’d have stood longer, it was that important to me,” says Don.  “Everything about getting married was surreal and beautiful and we’d waited such a long time for it.”

Fritz works in retail sales and Don has been a special education teach with the same district for 37 years, working with high school students.  When school started again after the Christmas holiday, Don told his students that he had married his partner of 21 years over the holidays.  They burst into excited applause for him.  One of his students told him afterward, “I was just so afraid you were about to tell us you were quitting teaching!”

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Marina and Elenor
 

Marina and Elenor

Marina, 29, and Elenor, 28, are born and raised Utahans, from Salt Lake City and Ogden, respectively.  They met nine years ago through friends, started dating shortly afterward, and have been together ever since.  Unless you count the five minutes they once broke up because, Elenor says, “She made me ride the New York, New York rollercoaster in Las Vegas!”

On the day the court struck down the anti-gay marriage ban, Marina and Elenor were stunned but thrilled.  “Within an hour of hearing the news, we were racing to the county building.  We ran in and went to the wrong doors a couple of times, while staffers were cheering us on and pointing us in the right direction. It was madness and it was awesome.”

Marina and Elenor have been talking about having a baby soon, but they worry about the ability to protect their family because Utah law would only allow the biological mother to be a legal parent to any children they have together. But they rankle whenever someone suggests that they just leave Utah. “Our lives are here, our friends are here, our jobs are here, and we love this city.  This is our home,” says Elenor.  “We love where we live. We want to raise a family here.”

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