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Meet the SA-tied Couples Suing Texas for Marriage Equality

Photo: Courtesy Photos, License: N/A

Courtesy Photos

Avid travelers Vic Holmes (left) and Mark Phariss(right) visiting Antartica in 2013

Photo: , License: N/A

Cleopatra De Leon (left) and her spouse Nicole Dimetman

When the 14-month grad school program was up, the couple returned to their home state and began to plan their future together. They first debated whether to have a celebration (obviously, non-legally binding) in Texas with friends and family.

“We kicked around the idea of having a big deal here in Texas but it just didn’t feel genuine or authentic or real, so we really didn’t have a choice,” said De Leon. “We hoped Texas would change its laws somewhere down the line. But we were talking about having a family and we definitely didn’t want to start that without being married.”

So, in September 2009, the native Texans flew to Boston, Mass., to wed—most of their loved ones remained absent from the ceremony due to travel expense.

With an already unconventional start to their marriage, the couple went through more unusual hoops to start a family. When De Leon gave birth to their son, Dimetman was not automatically considered the other parent, as in opposite-sex birth certificates; instead, she was required to follow the time-consuming and costly adoption process, which meant hiring a lawyer, participating in stringent home study evaluations and a criminal background check.

“It was very uncomfortable,” said Dimetman of the long, bureaucratic procedure. “If our marriage was recognized, I wouldn’t have had to do it.”

After five years of marriage and eight years in a relationship, the partnership had grown into a family. Yet, the new mothers still grapple with their lack of formal recognition from the state they call home.

“Imagine you are our son. How do you explain to him we are married but not really married?” De Leon asked semi-rhetorically. “It’s kind of a weird conversation. We are thinking about our life together [but] also his emotional and intellectual development. What we would like to do is have this case do away with all this weirdness, so when he’s at an age that we could explain all this to him, it wouldn’t be an issue.”

The idea of undergoing another long and emotionally draining process didn’t deter Dimetman and De Leon; having their son was enough to reach a tipping point to action.

“We thought for a long time about whether or not to do it, but just something inside of us … something just changed in us when we became parents,” said Dimetman. “We just want the best for him and want to do everything that we can possibly do to make his life as good as it can be.”

“Yeah, we were scared,” she continued. “We thought, ‘This is crazy and we are really busy and it’s really hard to fit all of this in,’ but at the end of the day it’s worth it because we are doing this for him.”


‘Get Over It’

Aside from the pressing personal and emotional reasons, a confluence of events catalyzed the litigation against the state. For one, the couples saw in last July’s Windsor v. United States Supreme Court ruling (which struck down a key part of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act) an opening for justice.

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