The picture speaks volumes. One look at the photo of Kirsten and Tanya Lyonsford with their two children, Andrea and Zachary, and you know they are a family that belongs together. Tanya and Kirsten have known they were right for one another since almost the first moment that they met, during a September 1999 mandatory diversity training program for AT&T, for whom they worked at the time.
During a game called “Diversity Bingo,” Tanya and Kirsten both chose the gay/lesbian box. That public revelation led to a date, a strong friendship and then a deeper relationship. In October 2002, Kirsten and Tanya held a commitment ceremony – a Christian wedding ceremony – including family, friends and colleagues. For Tanya, it was moving that her 84-year-old grandfather not only attended (even though he didn’t know she was a lesbian until he got the announcement), but that he made a point of saying that he was there to represent Tanya’s late grandmother. It was painful, however, that after that ceremony and all its joy, Kirsten and Tanya heard some say that their celebration was nice “but not legal.”
Tanya and Kirsten bought a home in Aurora in 2002. They now have been joined in that home by Zachary and Andrea. Even the casual observer notes that Kirsten and Tanya are attentive parents – they focus their attention on their children, read regularly with them, take Andrea to running club and other activities and attend church with the two children weekly.
To show others that they are a couple, Kirsten and Tanya have legally changed their last names so they are the same.
“We are a family,” says Kirsten. “We love one another. We love our children. We have built a life together where we are responsible to one another and for one another. “
“We simply want the ability to marry, to share that respect and recognition with every other married couple who shares the joys and pains of going through life together,” she adds.
“It also is important for Andrea and Zachary that we are able to marry,” says Tanya. “We brought them into our family, because we wanted them to have the security of a loving and stable family that cares and loves one another.”
“We want to be able to tell them as they mature that their parents are married, and that the entire world recognizes the love and bond that we feel,” she says.