Testimony of Ryan Cannon and Daphne Scott-Henderson before the Illinois House Executive Committee

Case: Darby v. Orr

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Delivered by Ryan Cannon:

My name is Ryan Cannon, and this is my partner Daphne Scott-Henderson. Together, we are raising three children – Sebastian, who is 4, Sonnet, who is 15, and Autumn, she is 11 years old. We are a close and loving family, and Daphne and I dream of a time when we can be married. Yes, we wish to marry and welcome all the responsibilities that come with marriage. But, we also wish to marry for our children. When the state sends the message that our family isn’t worthy of being treated fairly, our children hear that message in a variety of settings every day. If Daphne and I were married, Sonnet and Autumn, and eventually Sebastian, would not need to worry about explaining to their friends why our family is different, or what our family means to them.

When I gave birth to our son Sebastian, hospital staff initially barred his two sisters, refusing to allow them to visit because they were not considered “siblings”.  It was an upsetting experience not only for me and Daphne, but for two girls excited to meet their new little brother.  Daphne and I know that if we could have expressed to hospital staff that we are a married family, we wouldn’t have had to deal with that. No member of a family who has been so close for so long should have to deal with being treated like an outsider.

We both planned for Sebastian’s arrival as a couple, and conceived him through donor insemination, just like many different-sex married couples do.  But unlike those other couples, we can’t describe ourselves as a married family, and we face constant fear that we won’t be recognized as a family unit.  Just like what happened in the hospital, our fear is that we won’t be able to be together and take care of each other when it really counts.

In June of 2012, we entered into a civil union – and it’s not the same as marriage. Here we are nearly five years after his birth, finally completing a very lengthy and expensive second-parent adoption process for Sebastian. Daphne was Sebastian’s mom long before he was born, just as I, but we have lived in fear every day, that her parental rights could be undermined at any time. When Daphne takes Sebastian to the doctor, there are always issues, even though it’s supposed to be on record that she can make medical decisions for Sebastian as his parent. She always has to verify who she is and they always want to call me to confirm. At his school, I still have to come in to sign things instead of Daphne because we want to avoid problems -- it’s happened before and it’s hurtful, not just to us, but to Sebastian, who is made to feel as though we aren’t a real family.

If Daphne and I could marry, there would be no mistake about our relationship to each other or to our children. Marriage is meaningful, and our family needs it. We love each other.  We are committed to each other.  We are doing the hard work to keep our children secure, supported, and safe.  We want to be there for each other in good times, and in bad, in sickness, and in health, and for as long as we both shall live.

We ask that you vote yes in support of our family.

Thank you.