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 Life

8 Ways for Dads to Find Work/Life Balance

Finding work/life balance is hard enough... but can be even harder for gay dads.

Having kids is an amazing part of life, and it should be fun. Life does tend to get in the way sometimes, and one huge aspect of that is work. Striking that balance between work and home life is tough. If you both work it's even harder.

And if you're a gay couple, it can have it's own set of problems above and beyond the standard work-life issues that people face. Recently, the Harvard Business Review conducted a study that focused specifically on the experiences of same-sex couples who wanted to make moves towards a work/life balance.

Keep reading... Show less
Gay Dad Life

'NolaPapa' Launches YouTube Channel: Story of a Gay Dad

Check out Erik Alexander's new YouTune Channel: Story of a Gay Dad

When we first found out that our second daughter was African American I froze. Not because of her race, but because I knew NOTHING about African American hair. So I frantically tried to learn as much as I could while she was a newborn so I was ready to style it when she was a little older.

I decided to launch our YouTube channel Nolapapa: Story of a Gay Dad to focus on this very topic! Episodes 1-5 will solely be dedicated to learning how to wash, care for and styling African American hair. Afterwards, the content will shift towards personal & family situations, adoption, gay parenting questions and other great content! I'd love your support and become part of our little village as we launch this new project!

Sending Nola love to each of ya!

Keep reading... Show less
Gay Dad Life

Encouraged by His Son, Single Dad Richard Started Dating Again — and Just Got Married!

After his 14 year relationship ended, Richard got a gentle push into the dating pool from an unexpected source — his son!

In 2014, Richard Rothman's relationship of 15 years ended, leaving him understandably reluctant to jump back into the world of dating as a single gay dad. But after spending one too many Friday nights at home, he got a gentle nudge from somebody unexpected —his teenaged son, Jonathan.

"Dad," Jonathan said. "Would you just get out of the house and go on a date already?" (You may remember wise-beyond-his-years Jonathan from this post that went viral of a tattoo he got commemorating his adoption day.)

On his son's encouragement, Richard started dipping a tentative toe back into the dating pool. In 2015, he met Kevin thanks to mutual friends that introduced them via social media. It took four months before Richard introduced Kevin to his son, who was a Sophomore in high school at the time.

On New Year's Eve in 2017, Kevin proposed while the couple was vacationing in Palm Springs. The city has an outdoor festival every year, he explained, which the couple attended. The band Plain White T's happened to be performing their hit "Hey There Delilah" as Kevin got down on one knee and proposed. "Now whenever I hear that song it brings back memories of that night," Richard said.

Richard and Kevin married on March 30, 2019 back at the scene of the crime — in Palm Springs, at the Frederick Loewe Estate. Jonathan was Richard's best man, and also walked him down the aisle (awwww.....). Kevin's brother Bobby served as his best man.

"As so many wonderful moments continue to happen for us in Palm Springs, we now own a home there in addition to our primary residence in Bentonville, Arkansas," said Richard.

Check out video from the couple's special day below!


And Jonathan is now an E4 Master-at-Arms in the US Navy.

Today is National Coming Out Day, and as we celebrate, we're sharing six coming out stories from dads in our community. Their personal stories are heartwarming, relatable, and empowering. Happy Coming Out Day, and remember, live your truth!

Keep reading... Show less
Personal Essays by Gay Dads

Growing a Thicker Skin

Experiencing hateful and hurtful comments, Erik Alexander had to learn an important lesson: how to ignore the trolls.

Photo credit: BSA Photography

Twenty years ago when I came out, it was unbearably hard. As I have written before, I am from the Deep South. Anyone who dared to deviate from social norms was sure to be ostracized. It's not that these people were born hateful or mean; rather, it probably had more to do with them not being subjected to other lifestyles. Anything different from their own experiences sparked fear and confusion. Homosexuality, interracial relationships, religious differences – these were all unfamiliar territories to the average person I grew up around. Thus, growing up was particularly difficult.

I remember lying in bed at night when I was a little boy. I would pray and beg God to not let me be gay. Every single night I would end my prayers with "... and God, please don't let me have nightmares and please don't let me be gay." I remember crying myself to sleep many nights. I was embarrassed and ashamed. And I wanted God to cure me.

Keep reading... Show less
Change the World

10 Inspiring Coming Out Stories From Gay Dads

Happy National Coming Out Day! To celebrate, we've rounded up some of our recent stories about gay men with kids coming out to live their most authentic lives.

Happy National Coming Out Day! To celebrate, we've rounded up some of our best articles of gay dads coming out to live their authentic lives.

#1. Former NFL Player Jeff Rohrer, and Father of Two, Comes Out as Gay and Marries Longterm Partner


Jeff Rohrer, a father of two teenage boys via a previous relationship with a woman, is the first NFL player to marry another man. Read the article here.

#2. Coming Out to His Wife Was Painful, Says This Salt Lake-Based Dad of Four. But it Started Him on a Path of Authenticity

After Kyle came out to his wife, with whom he has four children, "she listened, she mourned and she loved," he said. Read the article here.

#3. Gay Dads Share Their Coming Out Stories for National Coming Out Day

We asked several gay dads to share their coming out stories in honor of National Coming Out Day, whose stories are heartwarming, instructive, and everything in between. Read the article here.

#4. Gay Muslim Single Dad Writes Op Ed on His Path to Self Acceptance

Maivon Wahid writes about the challenges of reconciling three separate, but equally important, identities in an opinion piece for Gay Star News. Read the article here.

#5. One Gay Dad's Path Towards Realizing Being Gay and Christian are Not Mutually Exclusive

Gay dads Matt and David Clark-Sally talk about coming out, parenting as gay men, and reconciling faith and sexuality. Read the article here.

#6. Republican Utah Lawmaker, and Dad of Two, Comes Out as Gay in Moving Video

Nathan Ivie has many important identities he's proud of: Mormon, Republican, Utahn, father of two... and gay. Read the article here.

#7. How Coming Out Helped This Gay Man Find the Strength to Be a Dad

Steven Kerr shares the moment he came out to his ex-girlfriend. "From that moment on," he writes, "my strength and purpose have grown." Read the article here.

#8. Ed Smart, Father of Kidnapping Victim Elizabeth Smart, Comes Out as Gay

In coming his coming out letter, Ed Smart, a Mormon, condemned the church for their "ridicule, shunning, rejection and outright humiliation" of LGBTQ individuals. Read the article here.

#9. The Best Part of Coming Out, Says This Gay Dad, Is Being an Out and Proud Role Model for His Daughter

"I couldn't face myself in the mirror and think that I could be a good dad and role model for my child when I was lying to myself every moment of every day," said Nate Wormington of his decision to come out. Read the article here.

#10. These Gay Dads Via Previous Marriages Have Adopted a Motto Since Coming Out and Finding Each Other: "United We Stand"

Vincent and Richard both had children in previous marriages with women; together, with their ex-wives, they are helping raise seven beautiful kids. Read the article here.

Gay Dad Family Stories

These Adoptive Dads Gained an Extended Family Through Foster Care

Adoptive dads Edward and Andrew have maintained a close relationship with their twins' biological family.

Celebrating gay, bi and trans fatherhood is what we do on Gays With Kids. We rejoice in whatever paths our community took to become parents. But many of those journeys come with heartbreak, sometimes for the intended parents, and sometimes for the biological family from whom the adoption or foster placement occurs. With an open adoption, the adoptive and biological families come to an arrangement which best benefits the child, and that's when something truly beautiful can occur. This isn't always possible in every scenario, but when it does, we're exceedingly thankful. Can a child ever have too many family members loving them? Not likely. This was husbands of five years Edward and Andrew Senn's experience.

Keep reading... Show less

Fatherhood, the gay way

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

Follow Gays With Kids

Powered by RebelMouse