Saturday, March 09, 2013 12:10 AM
Supreme Court justice answers girl's gay marriage letter
By Corey Friedman | Times Online Editor
A Supreme Court justice has responded to an 11-year-old Wilson girl’s heartfelt appeal for federal recognition of same-sex marriage.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor sent Cameron Myers Milne a letter and signed portrait after Cameron asked the high court to strike down the federal Defense of Marriage Act and require North Carolina to recognize her lesbian parents’ New York marriage.
"I was inspired by my parents to make an effort and do something,” said Cameron, a sixth-grader at the private Greenfield School. "I really was surprised. I hadn’t expected someone so high up to respond to a letter like that.”
Cameron decided to write to President Barack Obama and all nine Supreme Court justices after watching Obama’s Jan. 20 inauguration with her parents, Sheila Milne and Susan Myers.
"I saw them during the inauguration and I thought, ‘What if they decide against gay marriage?’” Cameron said. "I thought I would rather not let that happen without me knowing that I tried to affect their decision.”
The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in two same-sex marriage cases later this month. The first is a challenge to the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which prevents states from having to recognize out-of-state same-sex unions. The second, Hollingsworth v. Perry, is a challenge to California’s gay marriage ban known as Proposition 8.
Cameron sent each justice a three-paragraph letter extolling her parents’ love for her and commitment to each other. She attended their wedding in New York last year and wants their marriage to be recognized in her home state.
"Please look at our photos and think of us when you make decisions based on gay rights,” she wrote. "We are a family. I am very proud of my parents and I hope you understand how your decision will affect my family.”
Cameron’s letter rejected the premise that straight couples make better parents than same-sex partners. She offered her own upbringing as an example.
"If you have any concerns about the welfare of kids of gay parents, I can tell you that I am doing great,” she wrote. "I am so loved. Everyone I know tells me I am such a lucky kid. My parents are my life. They quiz me before tests and make sure that I am doing well in school.”
Her parents were supportive of the letter-writing campaign, but Cameron stressed that they didn’t suggest or prompt her advocacy.
"I’m not going to stop her if she wants to say something about her family,” Myers said. "I’m not going to push it, but we’re definitely not going to stop her.”
Cameron said being an advocate for gay rights is an important part of her life. She accompanied her parents to a Campaign for Southern Equality march from Arlington, Va., where same-sex marriages aren’t legally recognized, to Washington, where gay couples have the same rights as their straight counterparts.
"We stood on one side of the bridge and she understood that we were not recognized as a married couple there, but on the other side of the bridge, we were recognized,” Myers said.
North Carolina voters last May approved an amendment to the state constitution defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman. Twenty-eight states have constitutional amendments that prohibit gay marriage, civil unions or both. Same-sex marriage is recognized in nine states and the District of Columbia.
Milne and Myers applied for a marriage license at the Wilson County Register of Deeds office on Jan. 14 as part of a national protest movement. The Asheville-based Campaign for Southern Equality held rallies across the Southeast.
Cameron didn’t expect replies from the Supreme Court justices, but one day as she returned home from soccer practice, she discovered a manila envelope with a Washington postmark.
"We screamed,” Cameron said. "It was thrilling.”
Inside the envelope was a letter and autographed portrait of Sotomayor, who was appointed to the high court in 2009. She is the first Hispanic and third woman to serve on the Supreme Court.
Sotomayor wrote that she couldn’t comment on issues that might come before the court, so she didn’t divulge her views on same-sex marriage. She thanked Cameron for sharing her story and encouraged her to follow her dreams.
"I know dreams can come true when you work hard to achieve them,” Sotomayor wrote. "I wish you the joy of dreaming big, working hard and succeeding in all that you do.”
The Campaign for Southern Equality posted Cameron’s letter and Sotomayor’s response on its website, and the exposure earned Cameron another honor — an invitation to attend the White House Easter egg roll on April 1.
Myers said a White House liaison for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues contacted her family after reading about Cameron’s letter to Sotomayor.
Since she’s already corresponding with Supreme Court justices, Cameron’s parents mused that she might be well-suited to a career in law.
"She’s good at arguing,” Milne quipped. "We do joke that she would make a good lawyer.”
But Cameron, who remains on the headmaster’s list at Greenfield, said she isn’t sure what career she’ll pursue when she grows up.
"I don’t know what to decide right now,” she said. "I have many years ahead to really think that through.”
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