West Michigan Gay Couples Keep Close Eye on Detroit Marriage Case

Posted at 11:01 PM, Feb 25, 2014
and last updated 2014-02-26 11:22:11-05

BATTLE CREEK, Mich. (Feb. 24, 2014) —  There are three Battle Creek couples closely watching this week’s gay marriage trial in Detroit. A couple is asking a federal court to rule that Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.

For Charlie and Chris Fulbright, being legally married in the state of Michigan would mean they could both be legal parents to their future children, “the basic rights that we are denied,” said Chris. “I want to live my life with Charlie until the day I die. I want to raise a family with him.”

Chris changed his last name as a symbol of the couple’s decade-long commitment and said the process could be simplified if same sex couples were able to legally marry in Michigan.

“I had to see a court counselor to make sure I was in the right mind,” said Chris. “I was basically told to lie to the judge because the judge could deny me changing my last name because I was taking it to be with my husband.”

Another couple, Lynette Rich and Toby Haughey, has been together for 26 years. They are waiting to be legally recognized as married under Michigan law before taking steps to signify their relationship with a ceremony. The couple also said that friends of theirs have been killed for being gay.

“We had to hide out,” said Toby.  “A Congregational church had a coffee house in the basement, and a lot of us gay people who couldn’t really say that we were gay, we all hung out there because it was one of the only places we were safe.”

Both Rich and Haughey have children from a previous heterosexual relationship and said that it’s a constant struggle to argue that same sex couples can raise children in a healthy environment.

“Seeing parents love each other … What you see is what you learn,” said Rich.

As teens, Deana Spencer and Mitzi Harrison developed a romantic connection but were told by family their relationship wasn’t allowed. “We wrote letters through the mail,” said Spencer. “My parents discovered this, and we were forbidden to see each other or speak to each other.” The couple has since gained family and friends’ support.

All three couples are watching this landmark case in Detroit closely. But they say their love will continue no matter what. But a favorable ruling would be a step forward towards rights they feel they long deserve.