Just six months after Stephen and Scott became legal guardians for their son, Enrique, Scott had a major medical scare. It was the summer of 2009, and the couple was still learning to balance the new responsibilities of parenting their teenage son with their busy careers. That’s when the possibility surfaced that Scott had prostate cancer.
“That period really put our situation in perspective,” Stephen said. “What if Scott were hospitalized? My ability to visit him and to be involved in his care could have been denied. We felt like second-class citizens. We were as committed to each other as our married friends – whose right to be involved in their spouse’s care would not have been questioned in a situation like this. We wanted the same rights that they have.”
After they discovered that Scott was cancer free, their desire to seek legal protection as a family in Arizona didn’t end. They are among a group of same-sex couples suing to maintain their state-sponsored healthcare coverage.
Stephen joined the faculty at the University of Arizona in Tucson in 2004. Scott, a self-employed architect, does not have health insurance through his job and, as many spouses do, has relied on Stephen’s coverage.
In 2009, the Arizona legislature passed a law that banned same-sex partners of state employees, like Scott, from receiving health insurance through the university. The couple decided to follow a lawsuit soon after the ruling.
“We wanted to be part of making Arizona a better place to live,” Scott said. “We thought long and hard about leaving. We have a number of gay and lesbian friends, including some top scholars at the university, who have left because of the state’s laws. But we love Arizona and felt like we needed to stay here and work toward equality in our own community. There are plenty of people just like us who make positive contributions to our state and who cannot receive equal protections in return.”
Before moving to Arizona, Stephen and Scott lived in California: As soon as domestic partnerships were authorized there, in 2000, they registered. Legally, it’s as close as they’ve come to being married. The status, they said, does not adequately reflect their commitment to each other. Their domestic partnership is recognized as a civil union in the city of Tucson, but not in the rest of the state.
“A domestic partnership is a nice gesture, but it doesn’t have the same meaning, either culturally or legally, as a marriage,” Scott said.
“We’re perceived differently from straight, married couples,” Stephen said. “Even if a married couple has only been together two years – and we’ve been together 20 – there’s a level of respect given to the married couple that our relationship doesn’t receive.”
Instead of relying on the paperwork they’ve cobbled together to protect their relationship – wills, powers of attorney and beneficiary agreements, among other documents – Stephen and Scott would like to be able to rely solely on a marriage certificate.
They have considered traveling to another state to get married, but that doesn’t feel right to them. They would prefer to be able to marry in their home state of Arizona.
Help start the conversation about why marriage matters to all loving and committed couples in Arizona. Couples like Stephen and Scott are a constant reminder of why marriage is so important to families that call Arizona their home.