For many, the current hearings in the Washington Supreme Court regarding marriage equality are interesting side notes in the ongoing battle over the right of homosexuals to marry legally. But for Marge Ballack and Diane Lantz, two plaintiffs in the case against the state's Defense of Marriage Act, it's not just about the larger issues of tolerance and civil rights, it's also a personal quest to validate their love.
"Diane and I have been together for 27 years. It was love at first sight," Ballack says. "Shortly after that, I moved in with her and her kids, and we started our family."
The Spokane couple was married in British Columbia on July 21, 2003. "It gave us a sense of normalcy and being like everyone else," Ballack says. "We have the same goals and aspirations as heterosexual couples. We just don't have the same rights."
The United States recognized legal marriages in Canada until 38 states, including Washington, passed versions of the Defense of Marriage Act, which nullified that recognition and is now being challenged in the state's Supreme Court.
After 27 years in a committed relationship, Ballack and Lantz say they know as much about marriage as anyone and deserve to have that legal and social title. "I think it's about having a committed relationship that's recognized by everyone," Ballack says. "With our friends and family, there's no question in their mind, and legally we want that right. We're being discriminated against."
Though Ballack and Lantz are already married - in Canada - they plan on having a new ceremony here at home. "We're going to have a wedding -- nothing too big -- and invite friends and family," says Ballack.
Ballack acknowledges that one important reason to be married is that it will give her and Lantz legal rights that unmarried couples don't have. "We've spent hundreds on legal documents that give us responsibilities that [married] heterosexual couples just automatically have," she explains. "I could marry some guy off the street right now and within minutes, he'd have access to records that we have to jump through hoops to get. It's ridiculous."
She says being legally allowed to make important decisions regarding finances and health care is just one aspect of legalizing her marriage with Lantz. The important part, Ballack stresses, is that marriage should be granted because America is a nation of equal rights.
"We've been chased and screamed at and spit on, and we don't want that to happen to anyone else," Ballack says. "Being a spokesperson is a small price to pay for maybe helping someone else."