De­fend­ing her moth­ers 18-year-old will have her say in­side and out­side the court

Los Angeles Times - - THE NATION - By David G. Sav­age david.sav­age@la­times.com Twit­ter: @DavidGSav­age

WASH­ING­TON — Kin­sey Mor­ri­son, a fresh­man at Stan­ford Uni­ver­sity, is go­ing to the Supreme Court on Tues­day to speak up for her par­ents and the sta­ble, lov­ing house­hold they pro­vided for her and her two sis­ters.

Grow­ing up in Ken­tucky, she re­called, “I was of­ten the only one of my friends whose par­ents weren’t di­vorced.”

Her two moms have been en­gaged for 20 years. Whether they can legally marry de­pends on how the jus­tices rule in four cases to be ar­gued Tues­day, in­clud­ing one from Ken­tucky.

If the Supreme Court rules in fa­vor of same-sex mar­riage, she said, “they will def­i­nitely get mar­ried this sum­mer.”

The 18-year-old de­cided to speak up last year af­ter the U.S. 6th Cir­cuit Court of Ap­peals in Cincin­nati up­held laws in Ken­tucky, Michi­gan, Ohio and Ten­nessee that limited legal mar­riage to one man and one woman.

She was an­gered that her par­ents would con­tinue to be viewed as sec­ond-class cit­i­zens and dis­turbed by the hypocrisy that of­ten goes with the talk of “tra­di­tional mar­riage.”

“To­mor­row, I could marry a stranger, di­vorce him in 72 days like Kim Kar­dashian and get mar­ried five more times af­ter that, like both my straight grand­mother and straight grand­fa­ther did,” she wrote in an op-ed piece for the Louisville Couri­erJour­nal. “Yet my moms, who promised each other fore­vers two decades ago, who have raised three chil­dren and built their lives to­gether, who em­body the sanc­tity of a life­long com­mit­ment ev­ery day — they can­not get mar­ried.”

She pro­duced a home video called “Sanc­tity” in which she and her sis­ters, Jil­lian and Tea­gan, talk about their moth­ers, Karen and Au­drey Mor­ri­son. Her video caught the at­ten­tion of the Fam­ily Equal­ity Coun­cil, a group that works with the chil­dren of gay par­ents to pro­mote same-sex mar­riage.

With the help of sev­eral lawyers, the fam­ily and the coun­cil sent the Supreme Court a friend-of-the court brief. The Stan­ford fresh­man also will be the youngest speaker at a “Unite for Mar­riage” rally out­side the court Tues­day to call for same-sex mar­riage to be le­gal­ized na­tion­wide.

The wel­fare of chil­dren has be­come one of the cen­tral, most-con­tested is­sues in the fight over mar­riage laws. De­fend­ers of the tra­di­tional def­i­ni­tion of mar­riage have in­sisted that rais­ing chil­dren in a home with their bi­o­log­i­cal mother and fa­ther is the best op­tion.

Such a ver­sion of the fam­ily, how­ever, is not what mil­lions of Amer­i­can chil­dren ex­pe­ri­enced in re­cent decades. The rates of di­vorce and sin­gle-par­ent house­holds soared af­ter the 1960s, long be­fore same-sex mar­riage be­came a legal re­al­ity any­where in the na­tion.

Th­ese days, as many as 250,000 chil­dren are be­ing raised by same-sex cou­ples, ac­cord­ing to data com­piled by UCLA’s Wil­liams In­sti­tute, a re­search cen­ter on sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion and gen­der iden­tity law.

Such fam­i­lies in­clude April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse, two nurses who are rais­ing four foster chil­dren in Michi­gan. One child was born so pre­ma­turely that he was not ex­pected to live.

All were aban­doned or given up by their bi­o­log­i­cal moth­ers. And while Michi­gan en­trusted the women to raise th­ese vul­ner­a­ble chil­dren, it would not al­low them to adopt them jointly. Nor would it per­mit them to marry. That prompted their law­suit, one of the four to be con­sid­ered Tues­day.

In rul­ing against them, two judges of the 6th Cir­cuit agreed with the state’s lawyers who said mar­riage was de­signed to fur­ther “re­spon­si­ble pro­cre­ation” by cou­ples of the op­po­site sex. Dis­sent­ing Judge Martha Daugh­trey fo­cused on the plight of the four chil­dren be­ing raised by the two nurses.

“How ironic that ir­re­spon­si­ble, un­mar­ried, op­po­site-sex cou­ples … who pro­duced un­wanted off­spring, must be chan­neled into mar­riage and thus re­warded with its many psy­cho­log­i­cal and fi­nan­cial benefits, while same-sex cou­ples who be­come model par­ents are pun­ished for their re­spon­si­ble be­hav­ior by be­ing de­nied the right to marry,” she wrote.

As an 8-year-old, Kin­sey Mor­ri­son re­mem­bers go­ing to the polls on elec­tion day in 2004 when the Ken­tucky bal­lot in­cluded a gay mar­riage amend­ment. She said she hoped it would al­low her moms to marry. “No, honey, it won’t pass,” she was told.

In mid­dle school, “I ac­tively avoided talk­ing about my par­ents,” she said. By the time she reached high school in the Louisville area, she de­cided to speak up when­ever she overheard other girls con­demn­ing gays or les­bians.

She told all who would lis­ten she was happy and proud of her fam­ily. (Her mother Karen legally changed her last name to Mor­ri­son so the en­tire fam­ily could have the same name.)

She also made use of a South­ern-style sense of hu­mor. She re­called the time when a woman, hear­ing about her moth­ers, tried to jus­tify anti-gay feel­ings by say­ing, “Well, un­der­stand, I’m a straight, con­ser­va­tive Chris­tian, raised in the South.”

“Yes, ma’am. So am I,” the young woman replied.

THE MOR­RI­SON FAM­ILY: Moth­ers Karen, mid­dle, and Au­drey, right, and daugh­ters Jil­lian, left, Kin­sey and Tea­gan. Kin­sey Mor­ri­son con­trib­uted to a court brief and will speak at a rally out­side the Supreme Court.

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