Meet the Couples
Lisa Chickadonz and Christine Tanner
Chris and Lisa’s paths crossed in 1982 at the Oregon Health Sciences University (OHSU) School of Nursing in Portland, Oregon, where Lisa was working on a Master’s degree and Chris was directing research. They began dating in 1985 and in September 1986 had their own, private commitment ceremony and exchanged rings.
Soon, Lisa and Chris started a family. Their daughter, Katie, was born in 1991 and son, Jacob, was born in 1994. Like many couples with young children, Lisa and Chris had some decisions to make about parenting and financial matters. However, because Lisa and Chris could not marry their options were more limited.
Lisa gave birth to both of their children, but Chris needed to complete a second-parent adoption so that she would be a legal parent to Katie and Jacob. This process required paying thousands of dollars for home studies and attorney fees to handle the legal steps. They also decided that since Chris’s job paid more, it made sense for Lisa to work part-time so she could care for their children.
When marriage for same-sex couples became possible in 2004, Lisa and Chris jumped at the chance to marry that first day. “We were surprised at how meaningful marriage was for us,” Tanner recalls. “When we could tell our families that we were married, they finally understood who I was to Lisa. We framed our marriage certificate and hung it in our kitchen so we’d see it every day.”
Later that year after Measure 36 passed, the Oregon Supreme Court subsequently declared the marriages of same-sex couples invalid. “We were once again surprised,” said Tanner. “This time we were surprised at how devastating it was to have our marriage nullified.”
“We have been together for nearly 30 years. We have raised two wonderful children, are involved in our church community and are respected in our work. We have done everything we can to legally protect our family and each other,” Chickadonz says. “I was raised in a culture where marriage was a very important milestone. When you were lucky enough to fall in love with someone, you got married. I have loved Chris for half of my life and I want to marry her. It’s as simple as that.”
Paul Rummell and Benjamin West
Paul and Ben reside in Portland, Oregon. Paul, a veteran of the United States Air Force, has been working in the renewable energy field for the last nine years and previously worked in the theatre arts. Ben is currently in a program to become a registered nurse, which he expects to complete in 2015, and previously worked for 12 years in the financial services industry. Paul and Ben were both born and raised in Oregon and had very religious upbringings.
Paul and Ben met during Portland Pride in 2006. They started up a conversation and Paul was touched by the fact that Ben had spent time earlier in the day with his father because it was Father’s Day. Within three months of that first meeting, they decided to live together.
By 2010, Paul and Ben knew they wanted to be committed to one another for the rest of their lives. Even though they could not marry under Oregon law, or their respective Christian faiths, they decided to hold a ceremony to declare their love and commitment to each other. The ceremony took place on August 21, 2010, with family and friends present. Paul was raised to believe in the sanctity of marriage, and although he recognizes that his faith may never sanction his marriage, he very much wants to have a civil marriage because of what it represents.
“Ben and I have loved and cared for one another for seven years,” says Paul. “Not being able to marry leaves a void in our lives that we want to fill. We were raised in Oregon and have always called Oregon home. We don’t want to cross the river to Washington State to get married. We want to get married in Oregon.”
Paul and Ben decided they wanted to become foster parents focused on helping children who had been dealt a particularly difficult hand in life. Paul and Ben completed all of the training, home studies, and background checks necessary to begin caring for children in their home. In the course of about a year and a half, they had long-term placements of three children and provided respite care for ten additional children.
In June of 2012, L.B.—a six-year old boy with serious behavioral issues—was placed with Paul and Ben. L.B.’s past history made the likelihood of finding a long-term placement for him very low. Paul and Ben worked extensively and exclusively with L.B., and in the process developed a deep parental love for him. They decided to adopt L.B., and are now waiting for the last step of the adoption to be finalized.
Paul and Ben want to make sure that L.B. grows up in a safe and stable home without the repeated message from society that their family is less worthy of dignity and respect than anyone else’s family. When they travel, the couple is concerned about whether or not their relationship, and especially their relationship to L.B., would be recognized by other people or government officials. They very much want to be legally married in Oregon not just so that others recognize the love and commitment of their relationship, but so that they will have the important legal protections for each other and their new family.