On Tuesday, April 28, the Supreme Court will begin hearings on the marriage equality case that has the potential to legalize same-sex marriage nationwide. The case focuses on couples from Ohio, Michigan, Tennessee, and Kentucky---where Randy Johnson and Paul Campion live with their four adopted children, 20-year-old twins Tyler and Tevin, 16-year-old DeSean and 11-year-old Mackenzie.
“Paul and I met in 1991 and when we got together, we decided since family is so important to us and because we wanted to be parents, we would adopt,” Randy Johnson told MTV News. Unfortunately, the state of Kentucky will not let two men adopt a child without a "mother figure," so the couple looked into private adoption options. DeSean came to them through foster care at seven, and the other three, Tyler, Tevin, and Mackenzie, were adopted as babies.
With four kids to take care of, Randy and Paul work together to accomplish all parental duties. However, according to Kentucky law, they're still not considered co-parents. “The state of Kentucky did not recognize us as a legally binding couple, so only one of us was allowed to legally adopt,” Randy explained. This means either Randy or Paul is officially the father on the kids’ paperwork.
Their son Tyler explains that this isn't just an issue of paperwork, but a matter of keeping the family together. “We were told that if something were to happen to [one of our fathers], we didn’t legally belong to both of them," Tyler told MTV News. "So custody things would get weird.” Instead of going to their other parent, they might end up being taken away from the family.
There are a lot of other issues they had to deal with, too. Instead of just going to any doctor, the Johnson-Campions had to find physicians who would treat them like a family. This became incredibly important when Paul was diagnosed with prostate cancer three years ago.
“We had a lot of anxiety because we were dealing with cancer, which was very devastating, but we also had to vet specialists so that they’d treat us as a family,” Paul said. “So if Randy had to make some healthcare decisions [for me], he’d be allowed. By law, all [the doctors] could have denied Randy even existing.”
The kids have faced similar obstacles. When DeSean went with Randy to get his driving permit, the state wouldn't process it because Randy wasn’t DeSean’s dad on the paperwork, so DeSean had to wait a whole month until Paul could go get the permit with him.
Many of the things the fathers described to MTV News — helping their kids with school, getting them to dance lessons or ball practice — sound like normal stuff for any parent. But the hurdles they have to jump through just to do basic things shows that no matter how much they love one another, they still wake up every morning knowing they don’t have the same rights as other families.
That's why they decided to take their case to court.
Giving Future Families The Opportunity For Success
With the help of the ACLU, the Johnson-Campion's became one of the families involved in the Supreme Court's Marriage Equality case. We probably won't know the results until late June, but the verdict is expected to be a landmark event in American legal history. SCOTUS will be looking at whether states can ban same-sex marriage, and whether all states have to acknowledge same-sex marriages that were officiated in states where it’s legal. There are currently 36 states — plus Washington, D.C. — allow same-sex marriage, but Kentucky, Michigan, Tennessee and Ohio are among those that do not.
There are a number of ways the Court could rule. Same-sex marriage could become the law of the land — or the Court could decide same-sex marriage is not a Constitutional right and leave the bans in place. They might also say that same-sex marriages only count in certain states. In other words, if you get married in California but live in Kentucky, like the Johnson-Campion family, your marriage wouldn’t count there.
“We feel we have a moral obligation to stand up to discriminatory laws and eliminate them so we could give future families like ours the opportunity for success,” Randy told MTV News. “We certainly recognize that so much of our effort in the past has been so that we strategically planned events in advance just to avoid any negative situations.”
Paul's health has improved, but he doesn’t want other families to go through what he did for healthcare. “That’s another navigation we had to go through that [straight] married couples don’t have to endure,” he said.
Having Two Dads Doesn't Change Anything
Oftentimes people who oppose same-sex marriage use children as an argument. This is something that bewilders Tyler, Tevin, DeSean and Mackenzie.
Other than the difficulties and unfair processes the state puts them through, like the permit incident, DeSean said having two dads “doesn’t make my life any different.”
“There are a lot of people out there who might make fun of our family, but we’re pretty much the same as other families,” Mackenzie said. “I think we should just ignore bullies and move on with our lives.”
Tyler acknowledged the difficulties his parents have faced. “Tevin and I, growing up, always knew what a struggle it was for our parents to not be married,” he said. “If our dads were to be legally married, there would be lots of benefits for us on a whole. We’re really happy that they’re part of this case.”
And Tevin, who has a Tumblr page about this history-making case, really nailed the point home: “People always try to put out false stereotypes, like, ‘The kids are going to be damaged’ and ‘The kids aren’t going to know right from wrong.’ Socially, we are no different from any other kids in our schools. All of us four kids are doing great. What we’re being affected by is the bigotry and the hatred that’s coming from other people who don’t understand.”