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.
Kelly and Marcy
They both came from the West Coast. Marcy Redick was born and raised in Alaska. Kelley Doherty's family made its home in California's Bay Area.
Each of them followed respective careers that eventually led them to Charlotte. Redick was an assistant manager at Costco; Doherty worked for banks on investments and Internet development.
They met in 2004, started dating seriously in 2006 and celebrated their union in a commitment ceremony in 2007. The ceremony included 70 guests (mostly straight friends and family) and featured a reverend, a dinner, a cake and dancing. Redick's young son, Avery, and her father walked her down the aisle.
“It was a wedding in every sense,” Doherty said. Except that it wasn't recognized as a legal union by the state. “It was very traditional.”
They went to Italy on their honeymoon.
Redick always wanted children and sought in-vitro treatment when she lived in Eugene, Ore. “I was fortunate to get pregnant on the first try,” she said.
By the time Doherty met her in Charlotte, she was a single mom with a big parental obligation.
In 2011, Redick was transferred to manage the Charleston Costco. For about a year, the two women reluctantly lived apart, visiting when they could. Then Doherty decided to retire, relocate and pursue other interests such as fitness training.
They settled on Daniel Island.
Doherty became Avery's stepmom, a process that required a degree of delicacy: Avery, 16, has special needs due to a mood disorder and now doesn't live with the two women.
“I was very excited about becoming a stepparent,” Doherty said.
Redick was cautious, anxious at first, worried about making sure her son bonded with Doherty. He did, in only a few months, thanks to a lot of time reading together (“Harry Potter”) and developing mutual trust.
Eventually, Avery learned to respect his stepmom as a parental authority with the right to reprimand or punish. He adjusted to the regular presence of Doherty and learned to deal with the normal jealousy that most kids in his situation must cope with.
“He was used to having 100 percent of Marcy's attention,” Doherty said. “The process we went through isn't any different than what any family deals with.”
Doherty said her commitment is total, even though the couple lack legal status and protection available to other married couples.
“I would like to add that legal commitment to an emotional commitment that's already the same as anyone else is feeling,” she said.
And she would like to avoid the taxes and expenses, such as legal fees to assign power of attorney to one another in case of hospitalization, that other married couples are not obliged to pay, she said.
Both women are athletic. They play golf, or try to, and they run. Doherty writes murder mysteries and has self-published two books with Amazon. They love to travel and plan one big trip each year. This summer it will be England, Iceland and Norway.
“We're very exploratory,” Doherty said.
And they often spend time with relatives, especially their aging parents.
“Family is important to both of us,” Redick said.
Both women attended the recent rally for marriage equality at the U.S. Customhouse in Charleston, and both argue strongly for public policy that does not parse rights, benefits and privileges based on sexual orientation.
Both also said they respect the religious and moral argument that “marriage” is defined by some religions as a sacrament.
“I'm comfortable with the fact that marriage can be defined by one's faith,” Doherty said. “It's not right for the gay community to tell any faith organization that it should define marriage a certain way. ... I don't think we have a right to do that.”
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