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(Scott Sommerdorf | The Salt Lake Tribune) Five year old Jesse Milner-Barraza is carried by one of his his Dads - Tony Milner - after Jesse came home from school, Friday, June 13, 2014.
Two dads and a child: Couple hope to prove they are a family
Same-sex marriage » The Utahns are two of six plaintiffs challenging the state to accept their union.
First Published Jun 13 2014 08:42 pm • Last Updated Jun 13 2014 10:39 pm

Ask Tony Milner about the moment he became a dad.

He won’t be able to pick just one.

At a glance

The status of Utah’s same-sex marriage cases

Evans v. Utah » The lawsuit challenging the state to recognize the more than 1,000 same-sex marriages solemnized in the 17 days when such marriages were legal has been appealed by the state to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals after Judge Dale A. Kimball ordered Utah to honor gay and lesbian unions. The federal appeals court is weighing whether or not to impose a stay that would halt all movement toward granting the couples benefits until it can rule on the merits of the case.

Kitchen v. Herbert » The landmark lawsuit that toppled Utah’s voter-approved ban on same-sex marriages has been appealed to, and argued before, the 10th Circuit Court of appeals. A ruling is expected any day. It is likely continue on to the U.S. Supreme Court regardless of whether the court rules in favor of Utah, affirming a state’s rights to define marriage as it wishes, or the plaintiffs, backing the ruling of U.S. District Judge Robert J. Shelby.

Same-sex adoptions » After several state court judges granted adoptions to legally wed same-sex couples, the state has asked the Utah Supreme Court to determine whether the adoptions — and, by extension, the marriages — are legal and allowable under state law.

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Maybe it was the day his son, still in the womb, was given a name. Maybe it was the minute he cut the umbilical cord or learned to fasten an oversized diaper around a newborn.

Maybe it was during the long stretch of sleepless nights spent standing, pacing, holding his son, giving him food and comfort, warding off the nightmares.

"You try to think of yourself as an individual," said Milner, 35. "But once you’re a dad, you realize: I only really have one job, and that’s to be a father and focus on Jesse."

It’s what a father does.

But in the eyes of the state of Utah, Milner is no father.

Milner and his husband, Matthew Barraza, are two of six plaintiffs challenging Utah to recognize their same-sex marriage and imbue their union with the rights and benefits afforded to their opposite-sex counterparts.

Last month, U.S. Judge Dale A. Kimball ordered the state to do just that, but Utah has appealed the ruling to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, which put all movement toward spousal benefits on hold.

Now, Milner and Barraza — like more than 1,000 married same-sex couples in the state — are waiting for answers, hoping that judges will affirm what they already know: that they are a family.


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Barraza legally adopted Jesse after he was born in 2009. But Milner remains a legal stranger to the boy he’s nurtured since birth.

As Father’s Day looms, the men will celebrate in the face of fear and unanswered questions.

"There is always that ‘what if?’ You never know what’s going to happen. That’s one of the reasons marriage exists: so that children can be safe and taken care of," said Barraza, 39. "We just hope that soon, we can have the same protections for Jesse as other families do."

Family oriented » Milner grew up in West Jordan; Barraza in Ogden.

As children, both boys were quiet, thoughtful, bookish. They loved spending time with their parents and siblings. They grew up in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

Coming out as gay and leaving the church later in life didn’t change some of the fundamental aspects of their upbringing: They both longed for a family of their own.

They both wanted to be a father.

"It’s what drew me to him," Milner said of their first meeting, more than 11 years ago. "I consider ourselves very fortunate that we’ve found each other."

In 2008, a family friend learned she was pregnant and decided to put the baby up for adoption.

She approached the couple and asked them: Were they ready to be dads?

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