Prop 8 plaintiffs Sandy Stier and Kris Perry addressed onlookers after a historic ruling at the U.S. Supreme Court. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)
The first time anyone asked me if I was disadvantaged to be raised by lesbian moms was in the first grade. A friend from my class asked what my mom and dad did for a living, and when I told him I had two moms, he told me that IÂ wasn’tÂ normal, that we were different.
Growing up, friends would ask questions like, â€śwho cooks?â€ť or, â€śwho works?â€ť trying to fit our puzzle piece where we justÂ couldn’t. To me, my family was different because I had three parents; aÂ step mom and two other moms; aÂ twin and two step brothers; the fact that my parents were gay never made me think of them as different, until those outside my family made a point of it.
ItÂ wasn’tÂ until my freshman year in high school that I finally saw how my family was â€śdifferent.â€ť
Elliott and I woke up early on Jan. 11, 2010, and put on our only suits. We shuffled into the back of Kris and Sandyâ€™s SUV and the four of us drove across the Bay Bridge to a Victorian home in San Francisco. There, we met with Chad Griffin, president of the American Foundation for Equal Rights, Paul Katami, and Jeff Zarrillo (who with my moms would be the plaintiffs in the Proposition 8 case). The five of them stepped outside to meet the press, and it was Jeff who said, â€śWeâ€™re all Americans who simply want to get married like everybody else.â€ť
In minutes, Elliott and I were on our way to the Federal District Courthouse. We were led through the back while our moms and a battalion of lawyers weaved their way between picket lines. It seemed that in no time Judge Walker was banging his gavel and the trialÂ began.
One of our lawyers, David Boies, called Jeff and then Paul. The opposing lawyer, Charles Cooper, cross-examined Paul, and then, Ted Olson, our other lawyer, asked Kris to take the stand.
After a few questions, Ted asked Kris what it felt like to be discriminated against. It was the first time I had ever heard any of my moms describe what it was like to face prejudice. She told Ted about growing up in the Central Valley of California and hiding who she was. She told him how she was teased and mocked as she grew up and how that blanket of constant hate had lowered the quality of her life. She also said she had never allowed herself to be truly happy and how sheÂ didn’tÂ want any kid to know what that felt like.
Looking around as Kris joined us again on the bench, I could see my brother, Sandy, and our friends in tears.
I had finally found my answer: Families like mine are no different than anyone elseâ€™s. We share the same love. Weâ€™re only different in that we felt the brunt of living under discriminatory laws.
When a family like mine is denied equal protection under the law, when society tells us that because you are a minority, you donâ€™t get the rights of the majority, it hurts. It validates hate against that minority. It teaches kids in states with same-sex marriage bans that your familyÂ isn’tÂ worthy of protection.
Perry v. HollingsworthÂ was appealed again and again until it reached the Supreme Court.Â My first trip to D.C. was much like that drive to San Francisco three years earlier. Elliott and I woke up early to stand in line outside the courthouse. We walked behind our parents to sit behind Ted Olson and David Boies. In the midst of Charles Cooperâ€™s oral argument, Justice Kennedy asked, â€śForty thousand children in California â€¦ that live with same-sex parents, and they want their parents to have full recognition and full status. The voice of those children is important in this case, donâ€™t you think?â€ť Cooper responded saying there was noÂ evidence that children, my brothers and I, would benefit from Kris and Sandy being married.
Today the same question is being asked in court cases across the country that challenge state bans on marriage equality and likeÂ Perry v. HollingsworthÂ have the potential to bring the battle of universal marriage equality to the Supreme Court.
Four months after the Supreme Court oral arguments, the court lifted the ban on same-sex marriages in California and I got to know exactly what that benefit is. Take it from a son â€“I’veÂ never feltÂ prouder or more patriotic than when my moms were legally married one year ago on June 28. Every son and daughter in every state should have the right to feel that way.
Spencer M. Perry is the son of Kris Perry and Sandy Stier, plaintiffs in the Perry v. Hollingsworth case that overturned California’s ban on same-sex marriage. He studies economics and public policy at George Washington University.
From left, Kris Perry, Spencer Perry and Sandy Stier (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)