Stories of love, life, death mark U.S. Supreme Court marriage equality cases

Pam Yorksmith, left, and her spouse Nicole Yorksmith, along with their children, Grayden and Orion. A middle-of-the night trip to the emergency room, with her 9-month-old son coughing and laboring to breathe, gave Pam Yorksmith her latest reminder of why she took up the fight for same-sex marriage. Before baby Orion could be treated for croup, the hospital had to call his birth mother, Yorksmith’s wife, Nicole, "to get permission to treat my child," Yorksmith said.

Pam Yorksmith, left, and her spouse Nicole Yorksmith, along with their children, Grayden and Orion. A middle-of-the night trip to the emergency room, with her 9-month-old son coughing and laboring to breathe, gave Pam Yorksmith her latest reminder of why she took up the fight for same-sex marriage. Before baby Orion could be treated for croup, the hospital had to call his birth mother, Yorksmith’s wife, Nicole, "to get permission to treat my child," Yorksmith said. Gary Landers, AP

Pam Yorksmith, left, and her spouse Nicole Yorksmith, along with their children, Grayden and Orion. A middle-of-the night trip to the emergency room, with her 9-month-old son coughing and laboring to breathe, gave Pam Yorksmith her latest reminder of why she took up the fight for same-sex marriage. Before baby Orion could be treated for croup, the hospital had to call his birth mother, Yorksmith’s wife, Nicole, "to get permission to treat my child," Yorksmith said. Gary Landers, AP

Pam Yorksmith, left, and her spouse Nicole Yorksmith, along with their children, Grayden and Orion. A middle-of-the night trip to the emergency room, with her 9-month-old son coughing and laboring to breathe, gave Pam Yorksmith her latest reminder of why she took up the fight for same-sex marriage. Before baby Orion could be treated for croup, the hospital had to call his birth mother, Yorksmith’s wife, Nicole, “to get permission to treat my child,” she said.

WASHINGTON — A middle-of-the night trip to the emergency room, with her 9-month-old son coughing and laboring to breathe, gave Pam Yorksmith her latest reminder of why she took up the fight for same-sex marriage.

Before baby Orion could be treated for croup, the hospital had to call his birth mother – Yorksmith’s wife, Nicole – “to get permission to treat my child,” Yorksmith said.

Although the Yorksmiths started their family together through artificial insemination, hospital records and Orion’s birth certificate don’t list Pam Yorksmith as a parent.

Beyond the right to wed, gay and lesbian Americans in the 13 states that continue to define marriage as the union of a man and a woman confront obstacles across the course of their lives, from adoption to hospital visits to death benefits.

The Yorksmiths live in Kentucky and work in Ohio, both states that ban same-sex marriage. That complicates school enrollment, benefits, travel and tax matters, as well as medical care.

They are among the 19 men and 12 women whose same-sex marriage cases from those two states, plus Michigan and Tennessee, will be argued at the Supreme Court on April 28. Many of them spoke to The Associated Press about their cases. (Read their individual stories here.)

Some sued for the right to marry, while others are fighting to have states recognize a marriage performed elsewhere. They include young parents and grandparents, as well as a couple of grieving men who already have lost their life partners.

Some have never known a moment’s fear about living life as an openly gay person.

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Others, like Luke Barlowe and Jimmy Meade, still don’t hold hands in public, even after more than 40 years together.

“We grew up in an era where you didn’t show your affection for a same-sex person,” Barlowe said. “We’ve never gotten over that.”

Barlowe and Meade met in 1968 at the Gilded Cage, a gay bar in Lexington, Kentucky. Both retired, they married in Iowa in 2009 and live about an hour outside of Louisville.

“We wanted to do this not for us – it does nothing for us – but we wanted to do it for the kids coming up behind us,” Barlowe said.

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