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