Family: The Next Generation

The children of Arizona’s marriage equality movement speak out

By Megan Wadding, Dec. 4, 2014.

Since Arizona began performing and recognizing same-sex marriages, Oct. 17, many couples have formally tied the long-awaited knot and the wedding bells continue to ring.

However, being able to say “I do” in one’s home state has already had an impact on so many lives – not just the individuals exchanging vows – including families that this legal right now protects.

Echo spoke to children of couples who have been married since the law changed, who married in another state and have now gained equal legal rights as well as couples who plan to eventually marry now that the option is available to them.

The children of these couples, who range in age from 3 to 22, were asked what marriage equality means to them, how the marriage or upcoming marriage of their parents has directly affected them, what parts they played in the wedding as well as their thoughts on marriage, love and family.

After 57 years together, Karen Bailey and Nelda Majors had their long-awaited wedding Nov. 23. The couple has two daughters, Sharla Curtiss and Marissa Diamond. Bailey had been the sole legal guardian of both girls, though both women raised them.

Photo by Sheila Kloefkorn

Photo by Sheila Kloefkorn

Sharla Curtis, 22

“[My moms’] commitment to each other was obvious. [The issue] was what if something happened to Karen? Where would my sister and I go? Now that I’m over 18, I’m on my own. But for Marissa, if something had happened to Karen, Nelda didn’t have any legal rights to her. It was a big problem thinking about if something did happen, how we could stay together as a family, because Nelda has raised us as mother since we were very young, so we want her to have the rights she deserved.”

Marissa Diamond, 16

“It is nice to know that after 57 years, it’s finally an official thing. I mean, they were already together and they’ll never leave each other, but it’s finally official. Nelda is our mother also, so if anything, God forbid, would happen to Karen, we wouldn’t want to be with anyone else.”

Renee and Robin Reece, of Flagstaff, have four children. Renee has three daughters, Ashlynn, Ava and Alexa Kaminski, from a previous relationship and together they have son, Austin Reece. The couple, who served as plaintiffs in the marriage equality lawsuit against the state of Arizona, were legally married in Hawaii Aug. 4. Now their marriage is recognized by their Arizona. All four children proudly played a special part in the wedding ceremony.

Ashlyn Kaminski, 16

“It was Hawaiian tradition to do the ring ceremony so my mom thought it would be cool for all of us girls to be a part of it. Watching them get married was my favorite part of the wedding because my mom was crying the whole time. Hearing them say their vows was really the best part too, just hearing how they feel about each other. I’m glad they are officially married. I’m really happy for them. I’m glad that they officially have the title now.”

kaminski kids x4Ava Kaminski, 14

“I knew [same-sex marriage] wasn’t legal in Arizona and [my mom] was a part of trying to make it legal. At the wedding, we did this thing with the rings. It’s a Hawaiian tradition, I think. One of us girls each had a part. One had the rings in a bowl and one had the water. Then we poured the water into the bowl … Just them having the title of being married is important.”

Alexa Kaminski, 11

“I liked the ring ceremony. It was really fun. I was the one holding the leaf. We went back to our rental house and just partied there after the wedding. Seeing my mom married is weird at first, but then you get used to it. It was pretty important, but it feels basically the same now.”

Austin Reece, 3

“I walked them down the aisle. It was fun.”

richmond-familyDebra Richmond and her partner have been together for five years. Although they have no specific plans for a wedding, they are engaged. Richmond has one son, Jacob, from a previous marriage.

Jacob Richmond, 12

“I thought that anybody, gay or straight, should be able to marry if they wanted to. It shouldn’t matter who you love. [Marriage equality in Arizona] allows more people to be happier in more states now. [My mom] can be happy.”

Rona Johnson and Mary Peterson have five children between them. Although the couple has no immediate plans to marry legally, they had a commitment ceremony in the late ’80s and the family is friends with many of the plaintiffs from Arizona’s lawsuit.

kylie peterson-johnsonKylee Peterson-Johnson, 18

“I grew up knowing that my moms could not get married in the state of Arizona. When I was younger, I thought it was as easy as going to another state for the ceremony and then heading back to Arizona. I soon learned that no matter what Arizona wouldn’t recognize two women or two men as a married couple. My family [is] close friends with the teams who were fighting for marriage equality. I remember my mom and I being pretty excited [when the law changed] and she [said] to me, ‘I never thought I would ever see this happen in my lifetime.’ It was a big deal to both of my moms. They were in awe and very happy. In my opinion, there are no rules to love. There isn’t an authority grand enough to declare who another person can or cannot choose to spend their life with. Families come in all shapes and sizes. We’re all the same underneath.”

naomi-peterson-johnsonNaomi Peterson-Johnson, 11

“I think marriage means to share your life with another and promise to spend and give up your time to be with the one you love. Marriage equality means that it is fair for girls to get married to girls just like girls can get married to boys. My other family members like to see my moms together and like to spend time with them.”

Holly Mitchell and Suzanne Cummins, also plaintiffs in the lawsuit against the state of Arizona, are now advocating for second parent adoptions and have two daughters, both of whom were flower girls in their recent wedding.

mitchellcummins weddingMadisyn Cummins, 9

“My moms should be able to have the same rights as everyone else, so they can be happy together. My favorite part of the wedding was being a flower girl. I helped pick out the flower girl dresses and shoes. We had a party and everybody had fun. I was just happy that my moms got to get married. My favorite part about my family is that we spend time with each other. My moms made it equal and I am happy.”

Jessica Cummins, 5

“It is important that my mom’s got married because they love each other and people who love each other should be able to get married. I was sad because [my moms had to] ask a judge and others didn’t have to do all of that work. It took a long time. We had a big wedding at the Arizona Grand [Resort] and then we went and danced a whole lot. I had a bunch of fun at the wedding, especially the first dance when we all danced together as a family. I helped pick the wedding colors, orange and gray. My favorite part of the wedding was all of it because everything was the best. We love each other and we don’t give up.”