Adoption struggle leads couple into same-sex marriage fight

Paul Campion and Randy Johnson with their four children.
Paul Campion and Randy Johnson with their four children.

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.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — On paper, Paul Campion’s home seemed perfect for a foster child – and one of the students he worked with as a school counselor was begging to be taken in.

Campion’s partner, a nurse, was the PTA president, and they had three adopted children already. But they were a gay couple in Kentucky. Years before, when they were starting their family, the state had declined to place a child in their home.

While a teacher in New York, Campion met his partner, Randy Johnson, in a Louisville nightclub in 1991. They now call it “divine intervention.” Campion moved to Louisville and they exchanged rings in California in 2008.

After the state turned them down for adoption, they worked with a private agency and wound up with twin boys. A few years later, they adopted a girl.

When Campion’s student asked them to take him in, the couple worked with the state, first as foster parents before being allowed to give him a permanent home. Along the way, they battled the legal barrier of Kentucky not recognizing their marriage.

“We’ve been blessed,” said Johnson, “and we’ve been cautious.”

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They felt they had to protect their family more vigilantly than do most parents. They planned for worst-case scenarios. They kept the whole family’s passports up to date and handy, just in case anybody ever came to take their kids. The twins are now 20, their other son 16, and their daughter 11.

They never considered moving to a more accepting state.

“We’re upstanding, productive citizens. There’s no reason for us to run from anything,” Johnson said. “We want to make it easier for future families who want to create families like ours, in hope that they don’t have the same struggles.”

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