EDITOR’S NOTE: Earlier this week, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in two cases concerning gay marriage: a challenge to California’s Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage, and a challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, which bars the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriage.
The court is being asked to decide whether the former is unconstitutional and if the latter is a violation of rights under the equal protection clause. Rulings in both cases are expected by the end of June.
The Post and Courier talked with two gay families in the Charleston area to find out about their lives.
Walter and Paul
At home in Ladson, Paul Coloneri is lulling his daughter to sleep in his arms.
Sophia is 5 months and easygoing — quick to smile at friendly faces and quick to withdraw into dreamland.
Walter Pace makes a cup of coffee in the kitchen, glancing over to the couch where his boyfriend and child sit.
Coloneri and Pace are new to parenthood.
They made Sophia part of their lives in a legally arranged open adoption, a process they got started last year that was surprisingly smooth-going.
Pace, 29, of Saluda, N.C., is a cosmetologist taking a leave of absence so he can be home during the day with Sophia. Coloneri, 30, of New Milford, Conn., is a real estate agent.
The two men met at a party of a mutual friend five years ago. After several months, they started dating; a few months later, they decided to live together.
They said one clue that the relationship was right came in the form of Pace’s dog Lexxie, who miraculously got along with Coloneri’s usually antisocial dog, Gracy.
The family’s two-story house in a quiet subdivision is gracious and comfortable. The flat-screen TV is turned to a news channel. The automatic coffee machine appears to get a lot of use. Sophia’s floor mat and toys sit in front of the couch.
The two men said they are essentially “homebodies.” Pace likes to garden; both like to cook. They often host get-togethers with friends at the house, where they play board games and dominoes.
Coloneri’s parents and his sister and her family live in the neighborhood. Pace’s mom is in Greenville and visits frequently.
They both said they’ve always wanted children.
“You always talk about your hopes and goals and dreams in life, and this was one of them,” Pace said.
Coloneri said the timing seemed right: They were in decent financial shape, they lived in a house located near an elementary and middle school campus. The open adoption worked out very well, and Sophia’s birth mother will remain involved in her life.
“I’m very excited for Sophia,” Coloneri said. “She does have a mom, and she’ll always know she has a mother who loves her, but she also has two fathers who love her and care for her.”
When questions arise, and they almost surely will in the years ahead, Sophia’s origins won’t be a mystery.
Sophia was born on Oct. 22. The baby shower was Dec. 1. Her baptism at St. Padre Pio Church in Summerville was Dec. 29.
The extended families are in love with the little girl, the two men said. And they feel a sense of inevitability.
“I don’t miss life before Sophia at all,” Coloneri said.
They two men see the world in a new light, through Sophia’s eyes, they said. Visiting the zoo fills them with the wonder of discovery, as if the adult men are seeing giraffes for the first time.
One day, as the men and their baby were sitting on a bench in the center of Summerville, an older woman parked her car nearby, walked over to them and said, “I’m so proud of you, and you know why.”
That was a pleasant surprise, they said.
On another occasion, a stove repairman came to the house, noticed Pace and Coloneri attending to Sophia and asked, “Is that your baby?”
“Yes,” they replied.
“That’s so awesome,” the repairman said.
They have garnered looks at a restaurant when dining with friends, another gay male couple with a child, but they’ve not encountered any hostility, they said.
“You can’t please everybody,” Coloneri said. And there’s no point in trying. “The important thing is that parents love their child.”
It’s also important to distinguish between the religious and moral point of view and the civil rights perspective, he said.
“They are two totally different arguments,” Colonari said. “How do you put rights up to a vote?”
Reach Adam Parker at 937-5902. Follow him at www.facebook.com/aparkerwriter.