Meet the plaintiffs in Wisconsin’s marriage equality case

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Charvonne Kemp, left, and Marie Carlson live in Milwaukee. – PHOTO: ACLU of Wisconsin

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Judi Trampf, left, and Katy Heyning live in Madison. They are one of four same-sex couples suing the state for marriage equality -PHOTO: COURTESY THE ACLU OF WISCONSIN

Judi Trampf and Katy Heyning of Madison: Trampf, 53, and Heyning, 51, met in college at the Girl Scout National Center in Wyoming. They were part of a group of women from the Midwest who would get together outside of summer camp.

“We were interested in each other, but fate would have it that one of us wouldn’t be free to date,” Trampf said. “After four years, we finally started dating long distance, and eventually we both wound up in Madison.”

In July, they women will celebrate their 25th anniversary. Both work at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, where Trampf is director of human resources and diversity, and Heyning is dean of the College of Education and Professional Studies.

The women love boating, kayaking, traveling, and riding their BMW motorcycles – which, Heyning said, “are quite different from Harleys!”

After they had been together 15 years, Trampf’s family insisted the women have a ceremony to recognize and celebrate their commitment. Also, in 2009, they became domestic partners. However, the registered partnership does not provide the same rights, let alone societal status, as marriage.

In 2002, Heyning suffered a seizure while traveling with Trampf. The women had drafted power-of-attorney documents, but they weren’t carrying the papers. So hospital staff provided emergency care, but deferred further health care decisions to Heyning’s brother. And although Heyning had trouble concentrating and responding after the seizure, medical providers continued to question her, failing to address any questions to Trampf.

“If we were legally married, we’d know we have the same protections as other couples,” Trampf said. “We would have property, visitation and other rights. We wouldn’t have to wonder what was covered if one of us is ill or dies.”

“We want to know that if someone is in the hospital, we can see each other and have the right to make decisions for each other,” Heyning added. “Judi is the love of my life, and we’ve been together in sickness and in health. We want recognition of that.”

Roy Badger and Garth Wangemann of Milwaukee: Badger, 56, and Wangemann, 58, have been together 37 years. They met through mutual friends when they were students at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and got together on Election Day in November 1976.

“Garth voted Carter and I voted Ford,” Badger said. “I was really rooting for Betty.”

Badger, who’s lived in Wisconsin since age 12, has worked as an editor at UWM for 32 years. Wangemann, a native Wisconsinite, was laid off last spring from his customer service position, but is temping for his old employer as he looks for a new job. The couple attends a United Church of Christ church and has two dogs, Daisy and Winston.

“We have a lot in common, and we always have a lot to talk about,” Wangemann said. “Roy is very gentle and giving, and he’s always been very honest and forthright.”

Added Badger: “Garth has a terrific heart.”

The men celebrated their relationship with a church commitment ceremony in 2009 with a couple of friends, their pastor and his wife. Looking back on it, Badger said, “It’s bittersweet because it felt like something we were doing in secret.”

A few years ago, Wangemann was diagnosed with lung cancer and had most of his right lung removed. At the suggestion of Wangemann’s surgeon, the men had papers drawn up, granting Badger power of attorney. Following Wangemann’s surgery in August 2011, he had a medical emergency, and his doctors put him into a medically induced coma to allow his body to stabilize.

Wangemann’s coma lasted more than three weeks. During that time, Badger included Wangemann’s father in meetings with the medical team to discuss treatment. The surgeon felt confident Wangemann would recover, and he was right — Wangemann is living cancer-free.

But the couple Badger later learned that while Wangemann was in the coma, his father tried to override Badger’s power of attorney to take Wangemann off life support. The son and the father no longer speak to one another.

“What upset me most wasn’t that he wanted to take me off life support,” Wangemann said. “What hurt the most was that my father still didn’t see Roy as my spouse after all this time.”

Charvonne Kemp and Marie Carlson of Milwaukee: Kemp, 43, and Carlson, 48, have been partners more than seven years and raised two sons together. Kemp is an accountant and Carlson is a raw material handler for a manufacturing company. They want to get married — and they want to do it in the state they call home.

“We’ve thought about going to Massachusetts or Canada, but we decided that if nobody else is going to recognize it, it doesn’t mean what it’s supposed to mean,” Carlson said. “I want to call Charvonne my wife and have people understand what that means.”

Kemp agreed: “I’m old fashioned in that way. I think a couple that commits to each other and lives together should be married. I love her with all my heart and soul, and I want to spend the rest of my life with her.”

Kemp and Carlson are involved parents. Together they’ve raised Alexander, 21, and Christopher, 11, who are Kemp’s sons from previous relationships. Kemp and Carlson were active in the PTA at Christopher’s school, holding offices and Kemp serving twice on search committees to pick new principals. The boys would like to see their moms get married. At the ceremony, Alexander is going to be Carlson’s “man of honor.”

Carlson’s employer doesn’t provide domestic partner benefits, so last year, when Kemp’s mother died, Carlson had to use vacation time to attend the funeral. Kemp’s company does provide some benefits, but she’s sure that if Carlson or she ever becomes seriously ill, they wouldn’t be able to take family medical leave.

“I feel that the commitment I’ve made to Charvonne and the boys, and the one they’ve made to me, should be allowed to be legal,” Carlson said. “I want to proudly walk with my family. I want to do it the right way and the right way is marriage.”

Carol Schumacher and Virginia Wolf of Eau Claire: Schumacher, 60, and Wolf, 74, both grew up in Kansas and together moved to Wisconsin in 1977. Schumacher worked as an elections administrator and city clerk, and is now retired. Wolf is a retired Unitarian Universalist minister and a professor emeritus of English at the University of Wisconsin-Stout, where she worked 24 years. The women live in Eau Claire with their border collie/Australian shepherd mix, Z.

They have been together 38 years, since their very first date in 1975. They were the first couple to join the Eau Claire domestic partner registry in 2009, and they got married on their anniversary in December by a judge in Minnesota. As Wolf put it, “We’ve been inching towards matrimony for 38 years.”

Schumacher and Wolf raised a son and daughter together — Wolf’s children from a previous relationship — and now have four grandchildren. Their granddaughters, in particular, very much want the couple’s marriage to be recognized in Wisconsin.

Schumacher and Wolf routinely have been denied benefits afforded to legally married couples. When Schumacher worked for the city of Eau Claire, she was denied family medical leave many times when Wolf had surgeries, illnesses and injuries. They’ve also even been denied a family membership at a local health club.

“The protections and benefits we’re missing out on are still really important to us,” Wolf said.

Schumacher added: “The main reason I want to marry Virginia is that it would be an affirmation of our relationship and our family.”

The American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin filed a federal lawsuit demanding marriage equality in the state on Feb. 3 in Madison.