Cari lives in Alabama with her wife Kimberly and their 9 year old son, Khaya.
Family Equality Council: You were told that you did not have the “proper paperwork” stating that you were a legal parent and that you could not administer [your son’s] care, what was your reaction to this and what did you do to handle the situation?
Cari: Realizing that I didn’t have the proper paperwork to administer medical care to my son was actually what started our whole case over nine and a half years ago. It was very difficult to accept for me, you know that someone would refuse me access to my own son. It was totally unacceptable to me as a parent and it made me feel helpless and it also sparked the fire in me that we had to do something about this to protect our child and make sure things like this didn’t happen in the future.
Family Equality Council: What is your biggest concern with not being recognized as your child’s legal parent and not being able to adopt?
Cari: My biggest concern not having a legal paperwork was being able to protect him in everyday situations. The majority of the time, I’m a stay at home mom so anytime there is a medical issue, there’s always that concern of whether we’re going to run into problems with me getting him medical care. And then off course there’s school issues, whether or not I can find the proper paper work. And then there’s always in the back of my mind, if something happens to Kim, our son is not protected and could be taken away from me. For me that is totally unacceptable, and it wasn’t something that I was willing to wait to see what happened. I had to do something about it as a parent.
Family Equality Council: Do you have any example of when you have had a problem with that recently?
Cari: We haven’t had any problems at school per se because every time he gets a new teacher or starts a new school we’ve always gone and had the conversation with the teacher or the principal and it has always been a positive experience. We haven’t experienced anything up until this point you know. It’s just not being a “legal guardian” you’re not suppose to sign the paperwork and the report cards, I mean we do anyway, but it’s stuff like that that we always think about. And of course if there ever came a day where he did have a teacher or principal that wasn’t accepting or didn’t want to be accommodating to our family it would be a very awkward position. Now hopefully with the legal recognition that won’t happen.
Family Equality Council: How has this affected your family in health insurance and social security benefits, if any?
Cari: Not really sure. Kim just got a new job this year and we’re all finally covered under the same plan and that’s pretty great. We have always had separate plans and Khaya was always covered under her plan but that’s all changed in the last few years and I’m really not sure about social security and everything. I assume that once everything is legal that stuff won’t be a problem anymore and that we can file our taxes together and claim him and not have to lie on our state taxes that we’re both single. It’s a lot of unneeded work I guess.
Family Equality Council: You have gone through a long continuous battle with trying to be recognized as a parent and trying to adopt your child, how has this long process affected your family emotionally?
Cari: It’s kind of hard to say because for our son, this has been going on his whole life so it’s kind of normal, I guess. I don’t know it’s kind of hard to say after nine and a half years. I know we’re all looking forward to it being over and it not being a part of our everyday life, you know– the legal battles and the news and everything that comes along with that. Honestly, we’re just looking for the day that we’re not considered different, we’re not considered a gay family or same-sex family, we’re just a family and that’s what we’re really looking forward to this Friday. When the adoption finally goes through, I think it’s just going to be a huge relief to know that it’s finally over and we’re finally protected. It seems so simple, but for us it’s been very difficult to get to this point.
Family Equality Council: With the decision on marriage equality, how has it affected your recognition as a parent and ability to adopt your child?
Cari: I think that’s made all the difference. Our case came through before the Supreme Court decision and I honestly believe that without that Supreme Court decision coming down when it did we would still be waiting, the state would still be fighting it [Khaya’s adoption] and I’m just so grateful the way it all worked and how it all worked out, it was just absolutely perfect timing. We are now legally recognized in Alabama, which is a wonderful thing and a thing that a lot of people never thought they would see happen here. So, it’s great, it’s great how it all turned out and how the Supreme Court basically made it a slam dunk and made it no more questions in our case and it put an end to it I should say.
Family Equality Council: Where were you on the day of the decision?
Cari: I was here at the house. I work from home so I was here at the house and we planned a celebration downtown so as soon as the decision came down we headed down to the court house and there news interviewers met with our community and we had a little rally outside. It was beautiful. It was a great day.
Family Equality Council: Have you encountered any positive or negative experiences with inclusivity and your school treating everyone equal?
Cari: Yeah, we’ve had a lot of positive experiences in school. It gives us hope and makes it a lot easier for Khaya, for our son. I’m just really thankful for that and for educators here in Mobile that are open minded and see us as just a regular normal family.
Family Equality Council: Do you have an example, or anything that you remember where it was a positive experience?
Cari: This year, Khaya was in the third grade when our case was going on. Kim and I actually went up to the Supreme Court to hear the arguments and while we were there it was that week that he was studying about the Civil Rights Movement. He had to do a project on Ruby Bridges and stuff and he got up in front of his class and he was just so proud that we were there in the Supreme Court and that his family was part of making this change here in Alabama. And you know he’s kind of shy and he doesn’t really, when he comes from his school, he doesn’t talk about that stuff. Like when we ask him how school was, he says yeah it was good, but his teacher actually called us to tell us about how wonderful that [presentation] was and how he was so proud of us and told the whole class about everything. It just touched her a lot and the fact that she called us and shared that with us, it made us feel good.
Family Equality Council: How did your child feel about the decision?
Cari: He was very happy; he understands everything. With our case, since the beginning of this year, we’ve had like four wins and then we’ve had to wait. It’s like we’ve had a lot of these little celebrations with the Supreme Court and stuff. We jumped up and down, we did our happy dance and we knew we were just one step closer to finally getting to our adoption day. So it was a great feeling and one that we were all very happy with.
For more information on the road to equality for LGBTQ families and how Family Equality Council is advancing family values post marriage equality, read our Family Values Agenda. We invite you to help us move family values forward this month for back to school. Visit our Inclusive Schools page for tools to help ensure schools are safe and inclusive for our children.