Salud Garcia and Pam Kleiss
Salud, 50, and Pam, 49, were both working for the American Association of Retired Persons -- Pam in Seattle, and Salud in California -- when they met. A coworker who was friends with both of them used to forward funny emails from Salud to Pam. Eventually, Salud came to a meeting in the Washington office and they were finally introduced. “OH! You’re Salud from the emails!” Pam exclaimed excitedly. Pam recalls: “The moment I met her, I was totally smitten, just whacked out in love.” They have now been together for 18 years.
When their daughter was born in 2001, she was 14 weeks premature and weighed just over two pounds. Just after the birth, Pam also experienced complications, and Salud asked for a family I.D. bracelet that would allow her to enter the neo-natal intensive care unit to care for their child. She was refused because those bracelets were “only for family,” until Pam’s brother-in-law later persuaded a nurse to relent and give Salud a bracelet. Salud later adopted their daughter in Washington State where second-parent adoption is available. But in the hospital in the early days of her child’s life, Salud realized that if Pam had died during childbirth, she could have lost both her partner and her daughter, because the law did not protect her relationships with them.
Now 12, Salud and Pam’s daughter has an active social life. Despite some physical disabilities resulting from a hospital-acquired infection when she was still in the NICU, she is very active in sports, and loves a physical challenge. As for the law that keeps her parents from getting married, Pam says their daughter “just doesn’t understand why anyone would object to our marriage.”
Salud and Pam have lived in Madison since 2002, and they registered as domestic partners in Wisconsin in 2010.
Johannes Wallmann and Keith Borden
Johannes, 39, and Keith, 40, have been together for 15 years. Johannes is a music professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is also a professional jazz pianist, composer, and bandleader. Keith is a classically trained singer and yoga instructor. They met in New York City on Halloween in 1998. Johannes was playing in a band for a concert that Keith had produced. Somehow, Johannes got the idea that he was supposed to wear a costume, and he showed up to perform wearing a sailor suit. He was the only person in costume, and Keith says, “He really stuck out!” They began dating a few weeks later and have been together ever since. Johannes says, “Keith is incredibly kind. He inspires me to try to be a kinder, better person.”
Johannes, born in Germany, grew up on Vancouver Island, British Columbia but has been in the United States since college. Keith was born and raised in Evanston, Illinois. They lived together in New York for a while when they were first a couple, but Johannes only had a temporary visa. Concerned about the stability of their future together, the couple decided to move to Canada, where Johannes, a Canadian citizen, was able to sponsor Keith for permanent residency. “That was a huge thing, to ask Keith to leave his country so we could be together,” says Johannes. Canada allows same-sex couples to marry, so Johannes proposed and Keith accepted.
While they were apartment-hunting for the planned 2007 move to Canada, Johannes was offered his first tenure-track position at a university in California. The yoga studio where Keith worked in New York was opening a Bay Area facility where Keith could work. So Johannes and Keith abandoned the plan to move north of the border, but went ahead with their wedding in August because they’d planned so much at that point and really wanted to be married.
While there was some uncertainty due to the passage of Proposition 8 and litigation about the proposition’s legality, Johannes and Keith’s marriage was legally recognized by the state for more than four years of their time in California. They filed joint state tax returns, Keith was covered as a spouse on Johannes’s health insurance, and, had it been necessary, either one of them could have made critical health decisions on the other’s behalf.
When they decided to move to Wisconsin in 2012 so that Johannes could teach at UW-Madison, Johannes and Keith realized they were moving to a state that would not recognize their marriage. The State of Wisconsin treats their relationship as though it ceased to exist for state law purposes. But Johannes and Keith have never wavered in their belief in their marriage. Keith says, “From the beginning with Johannes, everything seemed so natural, like this relationship was the puzzle piece we needed to complete this picture of what our lives were going to be.”
Kami Young and Karina Willes
Kami, 36, and Karina, 44, have been together for 13 years. They met a few minutes after midnight at a New Year’s Eve party on January 1, 2001, and went on their first date shortly later. They live in West Milwaukee with their dogs and cat. They registered as domestic partners in 2009, and were legally married in December 2013 with their closest friends in attendance in a historic courtroom in Winona, Minnesota. Karina, who didn’t think she’d get very sentimental, surprised herself when she cried through the entire ceremony. “I just never thought this would ever happen in my lifetime. You get so used to being a second-class citizen that when you’re not anymore, it’s overwhelming.”
Kami and Karina are just starting a family – Kami gave birth to their daughter in late March. Despite having two parents who love her and care for her, only Kami is recognized as her parent by the state. In fact, as far as the law is concerned, Karina and the baby are strangers. In contrast, if Kami and Karina’s marriage were recognized, Karina would automatically be recognized as the baby’s parent.
Not just that, but Wisconsin law doesn’t allow Karina to secure her parental rights through a stepparent adoption, nor will Wisconsin allow Karina to take advantage of the second-parent adoption process available in many other states. Kami and Karina are deprived of access to the same legal protections of their parental relationship with their child that are available to married couples, for no other reason than that they are both women.
Bill Hurtubise and Dean Palmer
Bill and Dean, both 40, live in Racine with their three children, ages 5, 4, and 2. Bill grew up in Racine, and he commutes four hours a day to work in Chicago so that he, Dean, and their children can live in his hometown near family, friends, and their church. The couple met in an online chat room and hit it off immediately. Dean, who lived in St. Louis at the time, moved to Racine just a few months after their first visit. Shortly after he arrived, Dean took Bill to a lookout tower at Racine Harbor on the shore of Lake Michigan and proposed. At that moment, they decided to commit their lives to each another.
Both Dean and Bill had always wanted to have children. Dean has adopted two of their children through Wisconsin’s foster care system, and Bill is their legal guardian. Both Bill and Dean are legal guardians to their third child, with plans to adopt. If they could marry, their children would benefit from additional legal protections and security, such as a straightforward means to secure both parents’ relationships with their children through adoption.
“We’re like any other normal family in Wisconsin,” says Dean. “We pay our taxes, we take our kids to dance class and sports practice, we fall asleep the second the kids go to bed. We shouldn’t be treated any differently by the state."