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But for now, the couples’ marriages must be considered invalid from their inception, it says.
"Our office has been consistent in our message from the beginning," said Missy Larsen, spokeswoman for the Utah attorney general’s office. "The state cannot, under the current law of Amendment 3, recognize those marriages or anything that tethers to those marriages after the U.S. Supreme Court’s stay on January 6."
But Marx asserts that as their child’s legal parent, Amber has a constitutional right to parent as she sees fit and the state can’t override her choice of a parenting partner. Their daughter has a fundamental right to associate with both parents. And they filed the adoption petition as validly married spouses with vested rights.
"For all those reasons the state can’t interfere and must recognize the parent/child relationship of both women," Marx said.
Kimberly Leary, who works in the tourism industry, is her family’s primary breadwinner, while Amber works part time as a registered nurse so she can care for their daughter. They put everything — emotionally, financially — into building their family, Kimberly said.
When there were complications with Amber’s pregnancy, Kimberly struggled with the fact she did not have an automatic right to make decisions for her partner or a legitimate claim to their daughter.
"There was not that safety for me to know that if something happened to Amber that I would be taking my daughter home," Kimberly said, adding she realized that in Utah, her partner’s family and the state had more rights to their child than she did.
"That wasn’t the best feeling," Kimberly said.
Their daughter’s birth in November 2012 was a wonderful experience, but also one tinged with sadness as Kimberly filled out the birth certificate and the couple found themselves answering questions about who was the "real" mother.
"I didn’t want to take away from the celebration of the life of our baby that we had tried for three years to bring into the world and so I just pushed those feelings down and I just filled out all Amber’s information and hoped that things would change one day and I would get to be recognized," Kimberly said.
There was, she added, a "whole lot of stress" because the laws aren’t set up to support a family like theirs.
Prior to Shelby’s ruling, they were contemplating moving to Washington, where they are also legally married and where second-parent adoptions are allowed, before adding another child to their family.
And then came Shelby’s decision. Kimberly heard about it first and called Amber, who was at the grocery store with a crying baby who needed a nap, and told her instead to meet at the Salt Lake County Clerk’s Office as fast as she could.
"She said it’s now or never," Amber remembers.
Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker married them that afternoon.
"I thought there was a revolution going on, the world has changed, and now my state suddenly loved me," said Kimberly, 39. "I had such an awesome feeling about what was going on."
With marriage came a sense of legitimacy and a sense that their child now had all the security, rights and protections that every other child in Utah has, she said.
"I actually didn’t really think that much about what it meant for Amber and I, but what a gift that was for our child," Kimberly said.
The state’s response was unexpected, though Kimberly said she knows it should not have been. Once again, they face fear and uncertainty about the legal standing of their family.
"The fact that I even have to adopt my child that we created together — we found a donor, we went through insemination, we went through pregnancy, we went through birth, and I’ve been raising my child — the fact that I even have to adopt her is baffling to me. I should just be recognized at birth as her parent."
That said, she holds fast to one thing: "We know this is going to happen."Next Page >
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