Keynote Address: A Story of Family & Advocacy
“We all have something we can do to inspire, motivate, and connect with people. We need to be comfortable and have pride doing it. It is our responsibility and call to action to do it.” – Dr. Kevin Patterson
During the first annual Equality & Justice Conference at the Phoenix Pride Center, Dr. Kevin Patterson and Dr. David Patterson, “Super Dads” and plaintiffs in the recent lawsuit lifting Arizona’s ban on same-sex marriage, shared stories of their paths toward advocacy, and how for some the call to action is a “push,” while for others it’s a “pull.”
Dr. Kevin experienced the pull, while Dr. David experienced more of the push.
“I grew up in a small town in a large, religious family,” said Kevin. “I left home for college so I could finally be who I was, but I didn’t understand what that meant at first.”
Kevin said when he first met David, he thought David was a “political loudmouth.” He often agreed with David’s feelings and positions, but Kevin didn’t know if he had what it took to fight that fight.
“I was a reluctant advocate,” Kevin said. He described growing up in a small New Mexico town near Texas, “I knew nobody in my town would understand.”
After finishing college, Kevin let his mom know he was gay. She accepted the news and Kevin found that a lot of his fears of not being accepted by friends and family weren’t true. Kevin realizes that unfortunately, not everyone shares his story, and many experience great pain, loss, and grief when they come out.
Initially, Kevin preferred a more subtle form of advocacy than David. But that changed when the couple chose to pursue adoption.
“We thought we could both be certified to adopt and put both our names on the birth certificate, but we found out we could only put one, me.” said Kevin. “David was listed as a ‘certified cohabitant,’ and I had a real problem with that. David was going to be staying home and I was going to have a career, but he would be more of the parent. He is not just a ‘certified cohabitant’ in the house!”
Additionally, in the event that something happened to David, Kevin had to list his (Kevin’s) mother as next-of-kin. If anything happened to Kevin’s mother, David would not have custody of the children and they would go back into the foster system.
“When we began the adoption process with the Arizona’s Children Association, the staff was very honest with us. They told us Arizona is not set up with the best interests of same-sex couples in mind, but that the Arizona’s Children Association would prioritize our needs. We joined the Why Marriage Matters campaign because wanted to feel safe and accepted in our community. Flash-forward to October 17, 2014, and we’ve opened many discussions about second-person adoptions.”
Kevin spoke about advocacy in a more intimate way than David: “Advocacy, for me, comes in the form of conversations with our children. When have tough conversations about how they miss their biological family, and I tell them I am going to do everything I can so that they won’t lose the family they have with us.”
Since October 17, the conversations Kevin and David have with their daughters are different.
“We can now say: This is forever your home. We are your forever parents, and it’s okay for you to miss your mom.”
“By sharing our own story,” David concluded, “Kevin and I have been able to centralize and continue the conversation [about LGBTQ rights and equality].”