Daughter of a Same-Sex Couple Stands Up Against Discrimination in Kentucky

This March, Kinsey Morrison could not get enough of the news coverage surrounding the passage of a so-called Religious Freedom Restoration Act in Indiana. She scrolled through her Facebook timeline, clicked through the breaking news, and gobbled up the stories on her Twitter feed. Every few hours, it seemed, powerful politicians, significant celebrities and high-profile businesses were condemning the passage of the law in Indiana, which sought to use religion as an excuse for discriminating against LGBT Hoosiers.

Kinsey and her family – her two moms and her two sisters – live just across the border from Indiana, in Louisville, Kentucky. And for the budding young activist, who is now in her freshman year at Stanford University, the announcements of support for LGBT Americans surrounding the Indiana news was critical.

“It was incredible to see people come out and speak out against that bill,” she said. “It brought me hope. I understand what it’s like to have a family that’s invisible – and any time when your family feels invisible and then it seems like everyone is coming out to support you, that just feels amazing. LGBT families notice those statements of support. I noticed every single person who stood up against that law. Every ounce of support mattered to my family.”

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And even as she and her family cheered when the massive public attention brought a change – but not a perfect fix – to the Indiana bill, Kinsey understood that in her own state of Kentucky, LGBT Americans like her mothers are not protected statewide. She lives in Louisville, which has passed a local ordinance outlawing discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. But she knows that when she leaves the metropolitan area or travels to Indiana, where her aunt lives, her family is suddenly not protected.

“It’s a totally different world when you leave the city limits of Louisville and go out into the rest of the state, where LGBT rights are less popular,” Kinsey said. “You know all of the time that there are so many places in our state that aren’t welcoming, and where we aren’t protected. If my parents worked somewhere else, somewhere that’s not so accepting, they could lose their jobs. And that’s a reality for so many Kentuckians, and it’s really unacceptable and scary.”

If my parents worked somewhere else, somewhere that’s not so accepting, they could lose their jobs. That’s a reality for so many Kentuckians, and it’s really unacceptable and scary.– Kinsey Morrison

Kinsey and her family – namely, she and her younger sisters Jillian and Teagan,  have courageously taken a stand for the freedom to marry for same-sex couples with their work on The 321 Blog, and their partnership with the Family Equality Council writing an amicus brief for the upcoming Supreme Court case. But they know that even as they voice their support for marriage, LGBT Kentuckians need the basic protections that a non-discrimination law would provide.

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“We need to change the public perception and have people see that all families and all people deserve the same basic protections,” Kinsey said. “That will make the next generation far more accepting. There is so much left that we need to do.”

Kinsey’s mothers are Karen and Audrey, who have been together for more than 23 years. Karen is the president and CEO of a cancer support community group in Louisville – a role inspired by her around-the-clock support for Kinsey’s multi-year struggle with cancer – and Audrey is a retired teacher.

The family has been through a lot. But their optimism – their conviction that ultimately, fairness will prevail and all people will have the freedom to live their lives – is contagious.

“In a really basic sense, ‘freedom’ means being able to do what any other family would do,” Kinsey said, listing, “to be able to eat in peace, to know that you can marry your husband or your wife and still have your job on Monday, to know that you’re not going to lose your mortgage. But it’s also the freedom from fear: The freedom to walk into a church or a school or a public place and not be afraid that you’re going to be judged, berated, or discriminated against. That’s why this fight is important to me. It’s important to win the legal freedom to do certain actions, but also the freedom to do them without fear.”

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