Widowed with 3 kids, Ohio man joins same-sex marriage case

David Brian Michener, left, and William Herbert Ives, who were committed partners for 18 years, with their three adopted children, from left, Michael, Anna and Jackson. They were married in 2013 in Delaware and William died later that year.

David Brian Michener, left, and William Herbert Ives, who were committed partners for 18 years, with their three adopted children, from left, Michael, Anna and Jackson. They were married in 2013 in Delaware and William died later that year. David Brian Michener via AP

David Brian Michener, left, and William Herbert Ives, who were committed partners for 18 years, with their three adopted children, from left, Michael, Anna and Jackson. They were married in 2013 in Delaware and William died later that year. David Brian Michener via AP

David Brian Michener, left, and William Herbert Ives, who were committed partners for 18 years, with their three adopted children, from left, Michael, Anna and Jackson. They were married in 2013 in Delaware and William died later that year.

This article is one in a series showcasing the families who are plaintiffs in the marriage equality cases that will be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court on April 28. Read more here.


CINCINNATI — David Michener had planned on raising a family with two dads.

He and William Ives, a couple for 18 years, had adopted three children and were bringing them up in Cincinnati when they got married in Delaware in 2013.

Barely a month later, Michener was widowed. Ives died unexpectedly of a heart infection at age 54.

Michener quickly decided to join a lawsuit already filed in federal court in Cincinnati seeking a right for survivors in same-sex marriages to be recognized on death certificates in Ohio.

After the shock of Ives’ death, Michener said he wanted “to bring closure to the family in a manner that respected” their marriage. A federal judge granted his request.

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Michener, 53, has since left his job as a systems analyst and moved the family to their vacation home in Delaware to become a stay-at-home father. The children were all adopted from out of state, and both he and Ives were listed on birth certificates as their parents.

Ending the same-sex marriage ban in the state he left remains meaningful to him.

“I think with every tragedy, there needs to be a positive outcome,” Michener said. “Everyone is entitled to equality. If the courts have to get involved, they do.”

He hopes to attend the Supreme Court arguments with their three children, now ages 15, 13 and 5.

“I want to be there as a family and show my children that if you feel something is wrong and you have the facts on your side, you’ve got to fight for it,” he said.

The oldest, Anna, is following the case as a school project. Michener said she found historical parallels to the women’s suffrage and civil rights struggles.

“As my daughter puts it, ‘Daddy, you’re being treated like the blacks and the women voters, because you have to fight for everything,'” he said.

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