Jan 282008
Authors: Alexandra Sieh

Across the nation, the debate over same-sex relationships floods state offices and ballots, influencing everyone to form an opinion on the rights same-sex partners should be allowed. But what others forget are the couples themselves, watching as their country decides on how they will live their lives.

One such couple, Kim and Leigh Ann Phillips-Knope, accepted a Collegian interview, offering their experiences as a glimpse of struggles for same-sex marriages.

Their engagement in 2004 began right at the time of the amendment banning same-sex marriages in Michigan.

“It was hard to be in a place where the right to have our relationship legally recognized was a choice given to other people, ” Kim said.

However, in July of 2005, they found hope; Canada had voted to legalize same-sex marriages through the Civil Marriage Act. With that news, both Kim and Leigh Ann ventured to Toronto to hold their marriage ceremony. There they found a sense of acceptance rarely felt in the U.S. “Even though some disagree with them, they recognize that the choice is ours to make.” Kim said.

After nearly a year in Canada, the Phillip-Knopes returned to America to find the rights the marriage had given them in Canada had failed to follow them back home to Michigan. None of their insurance plans recognized the marriage, leaving either Leigh Ann or Kim to stand as dependents on their plans.

In order to avoid these and other problems, the couple moved to Massachusetts, the only state in America to recognize same-sex marriages with full benefits. There they finally found the peace they had hoped for.

“The happiness is incredible,” Kim said. “We didn’t have to look over our shoulders to make sure we were safe; the community accepts us for who we are.”

The Phillip-Knopes now plan to move back to Michigan. While Massachusetts allows them to keep their marriage rights, Michigan is their home. “We know we’re taking a risk in going back to Michigan, but it’s home,” Kim said.

Both Kim and Leigh Ann hope to work for expanding awareness for same-sex relationships, and continue the already growing mission of recognizing their rights in the United States.

In 2006, Colorado passed Amendment 43, which mandates that, for a marriage to be valid, it must be between one man and one woman as well as licensed and registered with the state. It is one of many states that don’t recognize same-sex marriages or civil unions.

Massachusetts and various nations around the world have legalized same-sex marriages. Vermont, Connecticut, New Jersey and New Hampshire all acknowledge civil unions (the legal union of a same-sex couple that is certified by civil authorities). California, Oregon, Maine, and Washington all recognize domestic partnerships (where same-sex partners share a residence without a legally recognized union).

Staff writer Alexandra Sieh can be reached news@collegian.com

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