Meet Wisconsin Families: Kami Young and Karina Willes • West Milwaukee

kari2Kami, 36, and Karina, 44, have been together 13 years. They met a few minutes after midnight at a New Year’s Eve party on January 1, 2001. They went on their first date 10 days later. At the beginning, Karina didn’t expect their relationship to last.

“We were 30 and 22 when we met, but Kami already owned her own home, had a great job, and was fully supporting herself. In a lot of ways she was more mature when we first met than I was!”

Kami says that Karina “is everything I’m not. She’s the talker, I’m not. She’s smart in ways that I’m not, I’m smart in ways that she’s not. We balance each other out and we always.”

Kami and Karina are both animal lovers, and they live in West Milwaukee with their dogs and cat. Kami works as a training specialist at the Medical College of Wisconsin where she’s been employed for the past 11 years. Karina is a senior project manager in the technology department at Foley and Lardner LLP, a major law firm with offices throughout the country. She is also working on her Ph.D. in communications, with a focus on LGBT issues in health communication. They registered as domestic partners in 2009.

Kami and Karina were legally married in Minnesota in December 2013. It was an intimate wedding, with just their closest friends in attendance in a beautiful, historic courtroom in the town of Winona. Karina cried all through the ceremony. “I just never thought this would ever happen in my lifetime. You get so used to being a second-class citizen that when you’re not anymore, it’s overwhelming.”

Kami and Karina are starting a family now, with Kami due to deliver their daughter on April 3. Kami has always wanted a child, but Karina only realized in the last few years that having children was really important to her. Despite having two people ready and eager to welcome her, love her, and care for her, when Kami and Karina’s daughter is born only Kami will be recognized as her parent. In fact, as far as the law is concerned, Karina and the baby will be strangers. In contrast, if Kami and Karina’s marriage were recognized, Karina would automatically be recognized as the baby’s parent.

And although adoption should be unnecessary if Kami and Karina’s marriage were recognized, Wisconsin law does not allow Karina to secure her parental rights through a stepparent adoption. Nor will Wisconsin allow Karina to take advantage of the second-parent adoption process available in many other states. Kami and Karina will be deprived of access to the same legal protections of their parental relationship with their child that are available to married couples, for no other reason than that they are the same sex.

CLICK HERE to sign the pledge supporting marriage for same-sex couples in Wisconsin.
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