When Courtney was offered a great job in Phoenix, I chose to uproot my life in Arkansas and move there with her so that we could be together. Sure, my life and my job were in Arkansas, but it wasn’t a hard decision for me at all. I knew that part of being in a committed relationship meant making sacrifices. And for Courtney and our son Tim, who was adopted in a previous marriage, I was willing to do whatever it took in order to be together.
So we moved across the country with our son, and together, we’ve built a life in Arizona. And we love it here! Given our choice, we’d prefer to be outdoors—hiking, swimming, riding bikes or playing at the dog park. And when the heat is too much to bare, we enjoy movies and reading.
Just like so many other people, we enjoy our family a great deal—we value the times we have together, and are thankful we’ve found each other to share this journey.
But it’s not all sunshine and rainbows in the Cooper State. Because our son Tim is autistic, we already face a wealth of challenges raising a special needs child. And these challenges are only compounded due to the fact that Arizona does not recognize our family.
Without the protections of marriage, we can’t share in the duties of doctor’s visits or school paperwork. And being that neither of us have family in Arizona, it worries me that if either Courtney or I were to be hurt or incapacitated, we wouldn’t be able to protect our son should an emergency arise.
Last fall, Courtney and I wanted to solidify our relationship through marriage, so we went to California where we were legally wed. And yet, our marriage is still not “accepted” here in Arizona, which makes us feel like we’re outcasts—separate but equal.
This year, for the first time, we were able to file joint federal taxes. But when it came to file our state taxes, we had to file as if we were legal strangers, as if we don’t share a home and have a son together. It was just another reminder that our marriage doesn’t count in Arizona, at least in the eyes of our state government.
We want our marriage, and our family, to be seen as just that—a marriage and a family—because that’s what we are, and it hurts for our love to be denied.
Marriage is still seen as the primary “glue” that makes a family a family in our society. But because our family is not recognized by the state of Arizona, I fear that it sends a message to my son that our family is different and should be treated as such.
We’re just two people who love each other and want the best for our family. I really believe in my heart that our story and our love is no different from the many other stories I’ve heard all my life about growing up, getting married, and having a family.
Mother’s Day is supposed to be a day when all Moms are honored. But until Arizona sees both Courtney and I as Mothers of our son, it stands as a sorrowful reminder that our family is not respected.
I love my son and my wife with all my heart. This Mother’s Day, I don’t want flowers or chocolates or breakfast in bed—I just want our family to be recognized.