Story by Nick Coleman, Executive Editor
Yesterday, The UpTake brought you the story of a baby boy named Emil , born Aug. 22nd to a lesbian couple, and asked whether Emil might be the first child born to a married same-sex couple after Minnesota’s new marriage equality law took effect Aug. 1. Well, it turns out that Emil and his moms were close, but no cigar.
We still love Emil and his moms, but Emil arrived a couple of weeks late. The new contender for first baby born to a same-sex Minnesota couple whose marriage is recognized by state law — he seems unlikely to be dethroned — is a baby boy named Grady Edward Nelson Calhoun. His mothers, Kate Nelson and Austin Stair Calhoun, had barely tied the knot on Aug. 1 when Kate went into labor two days later. After 50 hours of labor, Kate delivered a healthy 6-pound, 15-ounce Grady by C-section at Fairview-Riverside Hospital at 5:52 a.m. on Monday, Aug. 5.
It was a sort of “shotgun wedding,” Calhoun jokes about the couple’s marriage ceremony, which took place at their South Minneapolis home on the morning of Aug. 1, with everyone wondering whether the baby — the due date had been July 27 — might turn out to be part of the ceremony. The law, and the baby, were both so new that the hospital had to let the moms improvise a new birth form so that both parents could sign it — and have their names on the birth certificate — from the very start of their child’s life.
Calhoun, 32, is a ph.D student in kinesiology. Nelson, 31, is a non-profit operations manager. The two met online in 2009 and were “married” in August of 2012 — a symbolic act timed to show defiance for the so-called “Marriage Amendment” that was on last November’s ballot and was designed to put a permanent prohibition against same-sex marriage in the Minnesota Constitution. The amendment seemed likely to be approved by the voters at the time of their commitment ceremony in which they married without legal recognition. But a few months later, the amendment went down to defeat and, suddenly, the hopes and dreams of thousands of Minnesotans who believed that same-sex marriage should be the law came to life in a massive people’s push for marriage equality.
So on Aug. 1, Austin and Kate repeated their vows from last year, but this time it was legal, officiated and approved under the laws of Minnesota. Four days later, they had a family. The speed of it all has left them breathless.
“Everything happened so quickly,” says Calhoun. “We can’t believe it happened the way it did.”
The couple already had paid an attorney about $1,000 to allow Austin to go through the so-called “second-parent” adoption process, a lengthy hoop-jumping under the old laws that required Calhoun to undergo finger-printing and a background check just so that she could — eventually — be added to her baby’s birth certificate as a second parent, along with Kate. Under the law that took effect Aug. 1, the old process is obsolete: Austin was able to sign the birth documents as one of the baby’s two mothers, from the very start. The hospital, though, wasn’t prepared for the new forms that would be required: Calhoun crossed out the word “Father” on the form she was handed, and wrote in “Second Mother,” as she was entitled to do by the new law. The paper work went through, although the official birth certificate they received from Hennepin County lists Grady’s moms under the headings “Mother/Parent One” and “Father/Parent Two.”
The joy of bringing home their baby is mixed with the happiness of living under a law that recognizes their marriage, and their family, as the legal equivalent of any other. When they had their first marriage ceremony last year, they felt that they had to do something radical to proclaim that their relationship was as real as anyone’s but was deprived, unfairly, of recognition by the state. Since Aug., 1, and especially since Aug. 5, they stand equal with all families in the eyes of the law. It still amazes them.
“A year ago, we never imagined that we’d be legally married and have a birth certificate with both of our names on it,” says Calhoun. “It’s ground-breaking,” she says, acknowledging that Grady’s birth has begun something new in Minnesota. But at the same time, Grady’s moms want to acknowledge the utter normality of two people falling in love who get married and bring a new life into the world. At its core, their story is the oldest story in the world.
“We’re just normal people,” says Calhoun. “We’re way more interesting than just being gay people with a baby. But it’s the baby that is the most interesting part. All babies.”
Do Kate and Austin think they might follow Grady with a brother or sister some day? The answer is yes, with a twist.
“We were talking about it after that C-section,” says Austin. “But Kate told me that after what she went through, I’m the one who’s going to have the next baby. Well, OK.
“I’m up for that.”
(Executive editor Nick Coleman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)