Gay Dad Life

Making a Federal Case Out of It

Heroism comes in all shapes and sizes, and often when you least expect it.

David Michener, for instance, did not have heroism in mind when he lost the love of his life, suddenly becoming a single parent overnight to three young children. The experience was traumatic. But it would also land him in the Supreme Court and ultimately in a place of honor in the chronicles of LGBTQ equality.

“I didn’t do it to make history,” David tells Gays With Kids. “I did it to prove it is okay to stand up for your rights.”

In the Beginning

This story begins rather unremarkably, and to 2017 readers, anachronistically.

“We met in an America Online chat room in 1996,” David says, recalling first-contact with his future husband, Bill Ives. “The funny thing is Bill and I talked on our first date about children. I said I wanted to be a father, and Bill was like ‘So do I!’ We knew we could get along.”

And get along they did. Holding a commitment ceremony in 1999, their first child, Anna, showed up (albeit eight weeks prematurely) in 2000, followed by sons Jackson in 2002 (who, unlike his sister, was three weeks late), and Michael in 2012. While the first two were direct adoptions through an agency in Louisiana, Michael perhaps symbolized a precursor to the do-the-right-thing mentality that would later show up in the highest court in the land.

“Bill and I decided we wanted more children,” David explains, “but we didn’t want to go through adoption again. We wanted to start taking kids out of the foster care system. For Michael, it was time — he was almost three.”

At which point, all five fell into the rhythms of family life in Yardley, PA, just north of Philadelphia. Then came Bill’s transfer to Ohio.

The Coming Storm

In February of 2009, Bill moved to Wyoming, outside Cincinnati. The couple decided that David would remain in Yardley, however, while Anna finished 4th grade and Jack completed 2nd. Then, the family would reunite again in Ohio.

Living in the Midwest, they weren't oblivious to their vulnerable legal status as same-sex adoptive parents. So the two obtained every legal document they could think of---from power of attorney to disposition of bodies---to provide protections for their family. They also began to talk about marriage.

“As we became familiar with the politics of the Midwest we decided to marry and protect the family,” recalls David. When Delaware passed same-sex marriage legislation in 2013, it was kismet.

“Our vacation house was in Lewes,” David explains, a town just north of the gay Mecca of Rehoboth Beach. “Since I spent the summers there with the kids, it was a perfect reason to do it, even though Ohio would not recognize it. Our family was able to remain intact if something were to happen to either of us. The kids were protected.”

Sucker Punch

Many a funny wedding story involves one of the parties getting sick, and in July 2013, when Bill teetered down the aisle with a 104°-fever, everyone assumed he was soldiering through a dazzlingly badly-timed flu. What no one knew, several doctors included, was that Bill was in the early stages of a bacterial infection that ravaged his system from the inside out. It wasn’t until a marathon 18-hour surgery that a proper diagnosis finally came to light, but it was too late. Bill Ives passed away August 27.

And if the shock of loosing his husband just 37 days after marrying him wasn’t bad enough, “my cell phone is going off during the entire funeral,” David says. “And it’s a lawyer advising me that my name isn’t going on the death certificate as Bill’s spouse unless we went to court.”

He may have been married in Delaware, but Bill died in Ohio. By 2013, only 12 American states had same-sex marriage laws on the books, whereas many more had laws for just the opposite; Ohio proved particularly vitriolic. In 2004, Governor Bob Taft signed Ohio’s Defense of Marriage Act into law, banning same-sex marriage within the state and prohibiting acknowledgement of any performed outside it. To boot, included was the clause denying “statutory benefits of legal marriage to nonmarital relationships,” such as spousal recognition on death certificates, for example.

The Battle Is Joined

“Ohio treated me like a 2nd-class citizen,” says David simply, and the mild-mannered business analyst had his Incredible Hulk moment. “We got an injunction so that my name could be on the death certificate and Bill would be buried as legally married. We won that.”

But Republican powers in Columbus, in the form of Governor (and later GOP presidential candidate) John Kasich were far from done. A series of suits, countersuits, wins and losses followed, finally culminating in David amalgamating his case with others into what would become the pivotal Supreme Court case of Obergefell v. Hodges. 

Their argument hinged on the Fourteenth Amendment, which mandates all American citizens have equality under the law. For David, this meant that his marriage to Bill should be seen as lawfully licensed, even if performed out-of-state. David was determined his husband be buried not only with dignity, but also as a married man.

“It was living hell,” he recounted of the legal proceedings. Nonetheless, on June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court passed a 5 – 4 vote in favor of David and his co-plaintiffs, requiring all states to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples and to recognize same-sex marriages validly performed in other jurisdictions. Along with United States v. Windsor, the case guaranteed marriage equality in the United States.

David was in Disney World with his family when the verdict came down.

“We had been so stressed we needed to get away,” he says. “I was out having fun with the kids, which I would have preferred anyway.”

Case Closed

Now residing in Lewes, David, 55, stresses that however he may be perceived in the annals of LGBTQ history, he is a father first. But to his kids, he's both. 

“Being a part of a Supreme Court case was very interesting,” says 17-year-old Anna, who was in court along with her father. “I learned a lot about the issues facing the country as well as how our government works. Going from a tourist looking at the Supreme Court to being the one walking out those doors was an experience unlike any other.”

What better civics lesson could you get than to help transform American society, and LGBTQ rights, for the better?


For More on LGBTQ Family Advocacy Read:

Dads that Became Leaders in the Fight for Marriage Equality

Juan and Tom, Heroes in the Fight for Marriage Equality

How the Gays Stole Easter: Remembering the 2006 White House Easter Egg Roll

Show Comments ()
Gay Dad Photo Essays

How Single Dads Are Celebrating Valentine's Day This Year

Valentine's Day is not just for lovers! We caught up with 8 single gay dads to see how they plan to celebrate Valentine's Day with this year.

Valentine's Day is not just for lovers; it's also a day to celebrate our loved ones. And that's exactly what these single dads are doing.

Within our community, GWK has a large group of admirable, active, and awesome (!) single dads and we want to honor them! On Valentine's Day, they and their kids celebrate their family unit in the sweetest possible ways. We asked the dads to share these moments with us, and, where possible, one of the most heartwarming things they've experienced with their kids on Valentine's Day to date.

Hear their stories below.

Keep reading...
Gay Dad Photo Essays

11 Gay Couples Share Secrets to Their Long-Term Relationships This Valentine's Day

This Valentine's Day, we spoke with 11 gay dad couples who've been together for almost a decade or longer to learn what's made their relationships last

You're the peanut butter to my jelly, the gin to my tonic, the strawberries to my cream, the Mr. to my Mr.!

Happy Valentine's Day folks! We're excited to celebrate this day of lurrrrvvve by featuring a few dads in our community who've been together for almost a decade or more! And they're ready to share their secrets to a successful relationship and parenting partnership.

Keep reading...
Gay Dad Life

"Worth Every Blood, Sweat, and Tear": Congrats to Gay Dads on Recent Births and Adoptions!

Wishing all of these gay dads whose families expanded a lifetime of happiness! Congrats to everyone in our community on their recent births and adoptions!

Gay men go through a lot of ups and downs on the path to parenthood. It can be one of the most emotionally draining times in our lives. But as each of these families who are celebrating births and adoptions this month agree: it's worth every hardship.

Congrats to the dads whose families grew this month!

Keep reading...
Surrogacy for Gay Men

Dads Talk About Surrogacy Process in New Video for Northwest Surrogacy Center

The Northwest Surrogacy Center interviewed some of their gay dad clients for a video to celebrate their 25th anniversary of creating families through surrogacy!

Last year, Northwest Surrogacy Center celebrated 25 years of helping parents realize their dreams. And they celebrated in style by inviting the families they've worked with over the past two and a half decades to join them!

At the party, they took the opportunity to film queer dads and dads-to-be, asking them a couple of questions: how did it feel holding your baby for the first time, and tell us about your relationship with your surrogate.

Watch the video below and get ready for the water works!

Keep reading...
Surrogacy for Gay Men

Campaign to Legalize Surrogacy in New York Heats Up with Competing Bills

Two competing bills — one backed by Governor Andrew Cuomo and another by Senator Liz Krueger with stricter provisions — are aiming to legalize surrogacy in New York.

Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York is once again attempting to legalize commercial surrogacy in the state, which is still just one of three states in the country to forbid the practice.

"This antiquated law is repugnant to our values and we must repeal it once and for all and enact the nation's strongest protections for surrogates and parents choosing to take part in the surrogacy process," Governor Cuomo said in a statement in announcing a broader effort called Love Makes a Family. "This year we must pass gestational surrogacy and expedite the second parent adoption process to complete marriage and family equality."

Keep reading...
Change the World

Your Marriage Should Be Gayer, Says the New York Times

In an op-ed for the New York Times, Stephanie Coontz, author of "Marriage: a History," lists the many insights LGBTQ marriages can offer straight ones.

According to a fascinating op-ed in the New York Times this week by Stephanie Coontz, author of "Marriage: a History," turns out the people convinced marriage equality — legal across the United States for five years now — would usher in the complete breakdown of civil society should be more worried about the health of their own marriages.

In the article, Coontz details the results of research that followed 756 "midlife" straight marriages, and 378 gay marriages, and found same-sex couples reporting the lowest levels of physiological distress — with male gay couples reporting the lowest. The reason for this, the author said, is pretty simple — misogyny. The idea that men and women should strive for parity in a relationship is still a fairly new idea, Coontz said, and traditional gender roles are still pervasive. Gay couples, meanwhile, are free from such presumptions, which often results in happier, healthier relationships.

The most interesting findings in the research relate to parenting. While gender norms tend to be even more emphasized among straight people once they have children, with the bulk of the childrearing falling to mothers, same-sex couples — once again freed from the stereotypes of the male/female divide — parent more equitably. As the author notes, "A 2015 survey found that almost half of dual-earner, same-sex couples shared laundry duties, compared with just under a third of different-sex couples. And a whopping 74 percent of same-sex couples shared routine child care, compared with only 38 percent of straight couples."

When it comes to time spent with children, men in straight marriages spent the least amount of time and the lowest proportion of "nonwork" time, with their children — while men in same-sex marriages spent just as much time with their children as women in a straight relationship. "The result?" Coontz writes, "Children living with same-sex parents experienced, on average, three and a half hours of parenting time per day, compared with two and a half for children living with a heterosexual couple."

Straight fathers devote the least amount of time — about 55 minutes a day — on their children, which includes things like physical needs, reading, playing, and homework. Gay mothers spent an additional 18 minutes each and straight mothers an additional 23 minutes. Gay fathers spent the most time with their children, the study found, an average of an additional 28 minutes a day.

Taken together, straight couples spend an average of 2 hours and 14 minutes on their children. Lesbian moms spend an additional 13 minutes, while gay men spend 33 more minutes than straight couples.

One factor, the author notes, that can help explain this difference is this: gay parents rarely end up with an unintended or unwanted child, whereas a full 45% percent of pregnancies in straight relationships in 2011 (the last year data is available) were unintended, and 18% were unwanted.

But right. Gay people shouldn't be parents.

Single Parenting

The 'Strange Dichotomy' of Dating as a Single Gay Dad

A single gay dad describes the balancing act involved with dating after having come out later in life.

It was a Friday morning as I walked towards the twins' bedroom door, and I caught the dreaded whiff. The unmistakable smell of fecal funk. My heart sank — I knew exactly what awaited me on the other side. As I cracked the door open, my assumptions were immediately confirmed. Our resident two-year-old "scat princess", a.k.a. Maren, had pried off her poopy diaper and painted her bedroom walls and doors in her own excrement for the third time in as many weeks. I couldn't decide if I wanted to scream or cry. Fortunately my dad superpowers immediately took over and I did neither. I simply gritted my teeth, smiled, threw open the door and uttered "good morning, girls!" I spent the next hour giving the toddlers, the walls and the doors a Silkwood scrub-down. Again.

Fast-forward twelve hours later. The kids were safely with their mom for the weekend, and I was out on a date with a handsome guy I met on Tinder. The trauma from earlier in the day a mere, faint memory. This was the strange dichotomy of my life as a single gay dad. Balancing dating in the midst of coming out later in life, never mind the whole parenting thing, is a struggle. And, one that nobody really talks about.

Keep reading...

Fatherhood, the gay way

Get the latest from Gays With Kids delivered to your inbox!

Follow Gays With Kids

Powered by RebelMouse