Not everyone was involved in the hustle and bustle of SXSW this past weekend. Nicole Dimetman DeLeon and Cleo DeLeon, plaintiffs in the Texas gay marriage case, for instance, spent their joyous weekend welcoming a beautiful baby girl into the world, their second precious child. But with that beautiful moment came a sad reality for the proud parents, one Nicole DeLeon couldn’t ignore: “Labor is scary and anything can happen. I had an infection as a complication of labor that led to an emergency C-section. A day that should have been one of the happiest of our life was terrifying for Cleo. If I had not made it through the childbirth, Cleo would not have been our daughter’s legal mother because her name is not allowed on the birth certificate in Texas.” Unfortunately, such a terrifying scenario could very well be a reality for many LGBT parents in Texas.
In 2009, Cleo and Nicole eloped to Boston and by 2013, after the state of Texas failed to acknowledge their marriage, the couple prepared to sue the state to have their marriage recognized. They still await a ruling from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals and on a larger scale, a ruling from the United States Supreme Court to make all same-sex marriages legal. According to the plaintiff’s attorney Neel Lane, this means that “[In] the eyes of Texas, Nicole is an unwed mother,” and also, “her valid marriage to Cleo is declared void by a Texas law that U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia declared unconstitutional more than a year ago.”
It’s clear to see how unsettling this feeling could be, that one’s family could be considered “void.” After 5 1/2 years of love, marriage and building a beautiful family, Nicole and Cleo are still being denied their basic legal protections, leaving the family’s security and stability threatened. This leaves us asking, how can we protect our families? How can we raise our children with love and confidence, while also being told that our families aren’t even recognized as real families?
Mark Phariss, who is also a plaintiff in the case against the state for the right to marry his partner Vic Holmes, expressed his excitement for the couple’s new addition to the family, but also offered sentiments we all can agree with: “The time has now come for marriage equality to be recognized in Texas – for the sake Nicole and Cleo and their daughter and for the sake of all gays and lesbians in Texas, including Vic and me who, after 18 years together, desperately want to marry the person we love in the state we love.”