The U.S. Supreme Court will soon issue rulings in two important gay marriage cases. In weighing the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act, the court will decide if the federal government can deny benefits to legally married same-sex couples that it extends to other legally married couples. In the California Proposition 8 case, justices will decide whether, or in what circumstances, a state can withhold marriage rights from same-sex couples. Times staffers Chris Zuppa and Eve Edelheit talked with four couples who will be affected by the rulings. The interviews have been edited and condensed.
Joe Hodges and Steve Armstrong, both 47, live in South Tampa. They've been together for eight years and were friends for eight years before that. They have a son, Finnegan, conceived with an egg donor and a gestational surrogate.
Joe: About two years ago, Finn came along and brought a new perspective into our lives and made us a whole family. All he needs to know in this stage of life is that he is very much loved and supported. He's got a loving family that gives him a lot of support outside of the two of us. We don't have the opportunity, the simple basic right to be both identified as our child's parent. And it's sad that it's had to come to this point, because you would just think responsibly, that the Legislature and those we have elected to represent us would think that a family is a family. We are both our child's father. Having that level of understanding for him, for his sake, he just needs to know that he is very loved by both of his parents. He came into this world because, not because of anything physical, because our hearts grew into a place that we knew adding a being, a child into our lives would grow our love and relationship for each other.
Steve: We were at Disney, and I had never been an advocate for marriage for anyone, I kind of thought there were a lot of people that didn't d o marriage for the right reasons. The fireworks went off and I asked Joe if he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me. We are setting an example as a normal family. We do the same things you do, we go to day care, we go to school, we go to kids' functions, we go to birthday parties, people say, "Oh this isn't unusual." We aren't out partying every night. We are taking care of a little boy that we love dearly.
Sharon Anderson and Robyn Moore
recently held a symbolic wedding at Treasure Island's Sunset Beach even though Florida doesn't recognize same-sex marriage.
Robyn: We feel that a marriage license doesn't make us, you know what I mean, because no matter what, we feel that we have each other. There are still struggles, but I think a lot of people are opening up and realizing that we are equal and loving and caring. If it's (U.S. Supreme Court's decision) negative, we just keep trying. We just keep trying until we get there. We're not just not gonna lay down and die. They're not going to get rid of us. We have a voice.
Sharon: The first thing that I loved about her was that she was the most honest, energetic and most positive person that I've ever met. She's positive about everything. Just happy, free. I just feel like Florida should actually wake up. I feel that people should have the right to marry who they want to marry, and it should be legal in every state. If you love one another, regardless of what gender, you should be able to marry who you want to marry.
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Danielle Boswell and Fredericka Carter live in Tampa and have been together for three years. Danielle, 30, who has two children, Trashon and Malaya, from a previous relationship, is in an unusual position. She married a woman in California before Proposition 8 passed, so her marriage was grandfathered in and is still considered legal in California. That means she needs a divorce from a union that Florida doesn't even recognize. Fredericka is 25.
Danielle: I guess I'm corny. I want the white picket fence. You know what every girl dreams of, to have the wedding, and the children. Just to be accepted for being normal and not some crazy phase. (Marriage) is important, but not as important, because my love isn't on paper, my love is in my heart. It doesn't have to be justified by sitting in front of a courthouse or a preacher. It would be nice to have that right if we did decide to go ahead and do it. I can say what's at stake for me is I can get a divorce in any state. Then me just having to spend $2,000 to fly out to California, because I am legally married there. Here in Florida, I'm not legally married. But in California I am, and other states it's recognized in. That shows that even same-sex marriages are the same as heterosexuals, you do get a divorce, you do fall in and out of love, but I shouldn't have to sacrifice who I want to be with because I was stupid because of what the government's mind of what a marriage should be. It's very confusing. I've talked to lawyers here and they said, "Technically you're not married here, so we can't take your case." Fredericka's been here through my surgeries, and me being sick, and she hasn't gone anywhere. She showed me she is in it for the long haul. We're just like any other family. We have our ups and downs. All in all Trashon and Malaya are really good kids. But I just say, love is love. You can raise a family and a perfectly good child in a same-sex marriage. We are going to live our life the way we want to live our life. Why sit here and judge us and tell us what we can do in our marriage? We aren't sitting there protesting at the churches when you are going to get married. That's just who we are. We aren't monsters. We don't have a third eye growing. We pay taxes, we work, why can't we have the rights of everyone else?
FRedericka: I love living with her and the kids. The beginning of my relationship with Trashon and Malaya, I was very nervous. I played with them a lot, I ran around with them and played hide-and-go seek in Walmart. We still have fun now, but its on a more parent level than a friend. My favorite things to do as a family is to have music on and just dance together and play games.
Ed Lally and Philip Dinkins, both 60, of Tampa have been together for 36 years. They married in Canada in 2003.
Ed: The reason we got married was because Canada had approved gay marriage all across the country. It wasn't a very romantic proposal. I emailed Phil at work and said, "Hey, how about us getting married?" We proceeded to go to Toronto and had a wonderful little ceremony with a couple of friends as our witnesses. We got married in a church, and it really felt good to get married in the eyes of God. We both cried during our vows. It was a great feeling. We didn't think that we'd ever get to experience that. You know that's what this whole issue is about now in this country: People getting to experience getting married. Everyone should have that opportunity. We see a future of growing old together.
Philip: An interesting thing was our trip back. We were at U.S. Customs at the Toronto airport. And for the first time, I was going to fill out a joint declaration for our customs sheet. So we put both our names on it and checked it and walked up to the guard and he looked at this and looked at us and said, "You need to fill out a customs sheet, two of them." And I said, "No, we just got married." And he said, "Not here you didn't. This is U.S. Customs. Go back back and fill out another customs sheet." So we knew we were home, even if we were still at the Toronto airport. Regardless of what happens, progress has been made. Two cases heard this year. It's just a matter of time. I look at marriage as an issue of equality. For those of us in same-sex relationships, we want the same type of marriage that everybody has. It's going to happen.