The Faces of Same-sex Marriage in VA: Meet Kate and Sierra and Liam
It’s a short drive down over the James River, near the Swift Creek reservoir, over a series of bridges and through many adorable developments. Like much of Chesterfield, the rows and rows of suburban housing remind me of my own upbringing. When I head down the last street before Kate Magee and Sierra Knight-Magee’s house, I slow to a crawl so a group of kids under 10 feel safe as I drive by.
I’ve overestimated my “drive into the county” and I’m about 30 minutes early. I call Sierra and get her voice mail. But just as I wrap up my message I see Kate, blond-headed and carrying lively baby Liam in her arms. She gives a neighborly wave and I walk up to the door.
“Liam likes men and beards!” Kate exclaims as I walk up and Liam’s amazingly blue eyes light up when he sees me. He quickly buries his baby cheeks in his momma’s neck and I laugh.
All of a sudden I’m baby crazy.
The four of us sit down in the kitchen (even Liam in his high chair) and trace the steps of these two ladies starting out as strangers, only to become the family I see before me.
Sierra and Kate met through mutual friends back in 2007. It was a Christmas party, part of the old Fourth Friday events which were social gatherings for local LGBTQ folks.
Kate was up against Sierra in a game of Scrabble. When I ask who won they both say “I did” at the same time and I laugh. They admit they are both pretty competitive.
They would continue to run in to each other at events, but didn’t truly connect until 2010. By that time they had become best friends. They got married in 2012 in New York City, but kept their residence here in the Richmond area.
They co-own KMI Insurance, with Kate’s specialty in medical coverage and life insurance, and Sierra’s in auto and homeowner’s. They work with straight and LGBTQ couples around the city, making sure they get the benefits they need.
They are acutely aware of how important these benefits are. After all, they had Liam in April of last year.
It wasn’t easy becoming two moms and having a child together in Virginia. State laws literally make it illegal for two people of the same gender to share custody through second-parent adoption, an issue they couldn’t stand for. But after a jog together, the two realized it was what they wanted, and that’s when they began their research.
It turns out a few states allow a second parent adoption at birth if the child is born there, so if you find a state that recognizes two moms, you’ll be safe anywhere else in the country. Kate and Sierra, with the help of lawyer Kate Fletcher, decided they would go forward with the birth and they would have the baby in New Jersey, a state with the necessary adoption laws. Kate had family nearby, and they would do anything to be the rightful moms of their child.
They began the artificial insemination, and within a few week, when the couple was driving on rt. 288, they got a call that would change things for the better. Fletcher told them DC’s laws had changed. They could have the baby there and both be the legal parents. “It was a miracle, just knowing we didn’t have to go to NJ,” said Sierra. “We were prepared to do that.”
They got a second doctor, Dr. Footer, based in DC, who was willing to work with their schedules and see them on weekends so they wouldn’t miss work. Kate had more family living in Leesburg, and they set up camp up there about two weeks before Liam was due.
The pregnancy went beautifully, with no health concerns or scares, but when staying with their brother in Northern VA before the pregnancy, they were scared they wouldn’t make it quite into DC in time.
“We would tease that if I went into labor in the car ride, we wouldn’t call 911 until we crossed the state line,” Sierra joked.
“Can you believe we even had to joke like that?” said Kate.
But it went great. Kate was there to help catch little Liam in the delivery room, and the two happy moms brought him back home to Chesterfield. They moved into their new house a few months later, because they knew they’d need the room.
Kate and Sierra were thrilled. Both their parents were thrilled. It was something that took time, but Sierra said having a baby really changes everything.
“When we [told our parents] ‘Kate and Sierra are a couple,’ then ‘Kate and Sierra are getting married’–every time you added a piece to the puzzle it was more for them to wrap their minds around, and they struggled with it. But when we said ‘you’re having a grandchild,’ there was no opposition. All of a sudden it was ‘Can I be there for the delivery?’ We had to push her away,” Sierra said with a laugh.
You can’t really tell Sierra and Kate’s house from any others on the block. It’s only a matter of time before Liam is running and screaming along with the other kids in the big black cul de sac.
And that’s what I realize, as I watch Sierra scoop a handful of half eaten bananas and crackers out of Liam’s rubber bib: the trials and tribulations Kate and Sierra had to go through – like an illegal alien hoping to cross the boarder – are something no one should have to go through to have a family. But Sierra and Kate aren’t bitter about it – they have Liam now, and that’s what matters.
“Given all that we had to do in order to achieve our goal, to protect our family, the fact that it went so well, the two of us just feel so proud and happy about [it] that we don’t dwell on the fact that it’s unbelievably unfair we had to go through all of it,” says Kate.
“Would we like to be able to have our baby up the street at St. Frances? Yeah, how nice would that be? To just go into labor and get in the car and go,” said Sierra. Both of them hope to add another little one in the future, and they hope it’ll be easier next time.
For those who think otherwise, who think Sierra and Kate and Liam don’t deserve to be a happy family, well, they aren’t too worried. They’re too busy changing diapers.
“At the end of the day, the rights are going to be afforded to us,” said Sierra. “And I don’t know how it’s going to impact them, other than them being miserable by us moving forward… I feel sorry for individuals consumed with our rights and how the laws are changing.”
Top and middle photo via Lori Stone with Brightside Photography
Children in Alabama who need good homes may find it harder to get adopted. In March the Alabama House passed a bill allowing adoption agencies to discriminate against same-sex couples, based on the agency’s “sincerely held religious beliefs.” On Wednesday, the Alabama Senate passed the same bill. The new law matches one that’s been on the books [...]April 21, 2017
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