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Cleo and Nicole

You should read this Texas Monthly feature story on Cleopatra de Leon and Nicole Dimetman, two of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit to overturn Texas’ ban on same sex marriage.


But it is children— their children—that prompted Cleo and Nicole to file a lawsuit in the first place. Their suit argues that “responsible procreation” ignores the fact that gays and lesbians have children too, through adoption or because one partner is a biological parent. (Though legislators have tried repeatedly to bar gays and lesbians from adopting, nearly 19,000 children in Texas are being raised by same-sex couples, with San Antonio boasting the highest percentage of such families in the nation.) Because of the state’s ban, Cleo and Nicole lack many basic rights as parents. In most parts of Texas, an individual can be fired for being gay, which puts same-sex couples’ ability to provide for their children at risk; should one partner die, the other would be left to raise their children without the help of Social Security benefits. When Nicole gives birth to their daughter in March, only she—not Cleo—will be listed on the girl’s birth certificate. (Heterosexual married couples who use an anonymous sperm donor, as Cleo and Nicole did, face no such penalty.) This means that should the worst happen—should Nicole have serious complications during labor that leave her incapacitated, or should she die during childbirth—Cleo has no legal right to their child.

For these reasons, Cleo and Nicole told me when we settled in to talk, steaming mugs of cocoa in hand, they felt they had no choice but to sue the state. “People on the other side of this debate say we should slow down and leave this up to the Legislature, and we should try to change hearts and minds in the meantime, however long that takes,” Nicole told me. “What they don’t understand is the urgency we feel. This isn’t an abstract argument; these are real issues affecting real people, right now. All we really want is to live the very best lives we can.”

Much of what is in Pamela Colloff’s story will be familiar to anyone who has followed this case closely. De Leon and Dimetman are highly sympathetic plaintiffs, and the arguments that the state has made against their marriage and so many others’ is utterly ridiculous. I find myself getting angry as I read this, even knowing so much of it beforehand. Angry at the people who are fighting this pointless, hateful battle against people who just want to be a family. (For a brief look at these not-at-all-sympathetic people, read this Observer piece.) I couldn’t agree more with plaintiffs’ lawyer Neel Lane, in his argument before the Fifth Circuit.

When the solicitor general’s time was up, Lane rose to address the judges. “What you heard from this lectern is an incredibly narrow, blinkered view of marriage that would be unrecognizable, really, to anyone who’s experienced it, witnessed it, or aspires to it,” he said. “It’s quite amazing, because one of the consistent accusations has been that we are attempting to redefine marriage. And I have never seen as radical a redefinition of marriage as I heard at this lectern [from] the State of Texas.”

After mostly friendly grilling from the judges, Lane posed the most thought-provoking question of the hour. “If marriage is good for children, why deny marriage to same-sex couples with children?” he asked. “The reality is that this law depriving same-sex couples of the right to marry is not intended to modify or guide the behavior of opposite-sex couples at all. Everyone knows that this law is really about the moral disapproval of homosexuals. But since the Supreme Court has explicitly rejected that as a rationale that can support the law, counsel for the state has to come up here and attempt to redefine it with this somewhat, I would suggest, half-baked justification that narrows what actually marriage is … and convince you that this is what the people of Texas believe marriage is.”

Amen. The story suggests we may get a ruling from the Fifth Circuit this spring. There is as you know a motion before that court to lift the stay on the ruling that overturned the same sex marriage ban. Nicole Dimetman is due to give birth in March. It sure would be lovely if Nicole and Cleo’s daughter could be born to parents whose marriage is officially recognized, however grudgingly, by the state of Texas.

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