Congratulations to Sandra! She’s the winner of this drawing!
Sandy Stier stopped by to talk a little bit about her role in overturning Prop 8 in California. Plus, because she’s cool like that, she’s also giving away an ebook copy of her book, Love on Trial: Our Supreme Court Fight for the Right to Marry.
Drop a comment in the space below and I’ll draw a winner on Friday, July 21.
Being on a witness stand to defend your personhood, your sexuality, and your most intimate relationship is a bizarre experience. In January 2010, my wife, Kris, and I did just that. We walked into federal court in San Francisco, and gave sworn testimony about ourselves and our lives and about why we were suing the state of California for the right to marry.
As lesbians, Kris and I did not walk through life expecting it to be easy or even fair. Fair isn’t what we were used to, but it’s what we decided to fight for when we joined Jeff and Paul, a young gay couple from Burbank, California, and a team of powerful lawyers in a legal action to overturn Proposition 8, which denied the right to marriage to same-sex couples. In 2008, the same year that our country elected our first African-American president, Californians passed Prop 8, a ballot initiative that enshrined discrimination in the state constitution, ensuring that marriage between a same-sex couple would not be recognized by the state as legal.
Living in Berkeley with our blended family of four kids, Kris and I could not believe our eyes that November night as the voter tallies rolled in; we were devastated when we heard the final result. We rejoiced for our new president, but we cried bitter tears when the California constitution was rewritten, relegating us to second-class citizens in the state we loved so much. We had purchased a home together, raised children together, even gotten married to each other during a brief period of time when the city of San Francisco allowed it, only to have that marriage certificate taken away when the courts deemed it invalid. We took our citizenship and family responsibility seriously, but were not rewarded by our government with the same treatment afforded to other citizens.
When Kris and I heard about and were invited to join in a legal action to challenge Prop 8, we jumped at the opportunity. We sued our beloved state of California in federal court, a few blocks from where we had been married, albeit briefly, just a few years before.
Our legal battle lasted for four years, enough time for our oldest son to finish college and our twins to get through high school. Our legal team wasn’t what the public expected. They weren’t gay lawyers from an advocacy organization. Our team was led by two attorneys who were most well known by the public for being the fierce opponents in Bush v. Gore, the Supreme Court case that determined the outcome of the 2000 presidential election. A liberal democrat paired with a conservative republican who had faced off at the Supreme Court years before? What more could one ask for? David Boies and Ted Olson had captured the vote of every judge in the highest court of the land by the time they decided to join forces to fight for marriage equality.
“Love on Trial” starts at the beginning of our lives, on a family farm in Iowa (me) and a sleepy street in the Central Valley (Kris). Kris and I talk about falling in love and creating our family in Berkeley, California, sitting in court defending our right to marry, and marching up the stairs of the Supreme Court of the United States to confirm that right. Some days were tough, others were flat-out hysterical. The best part of all is that…spoiler alert…we won!
Sandy Stier is a Senior Advisor in the US Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children & Families. She and her wife, Kris Perry, who is the Executive Director of the First Five Years Fund. lived for many years in Berkeley, California; now they live in Washington, D.C.