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Bradley Kleinerman & James “Flint” Gehre

Brad Kleinerman and Flint Gehre each talked up their desire to have children on their first date more than 21 years ago. So it’s no surprise that they are now the proud parents of three sons: Raymond, 22, Rick, 20, and Joseph, 11. Their life in Avon, Connecticut bustles with hockey games and other sporting events, homework, violin lessons, friends, family vacations and lots of laughter.

After years as a stay-at-home dad, and previous careers as a police officer and a teacher, Flint recently went back to work as an organizational readiness leader for CIGNA Healthcare.  He also manages Joseph’s traveling hockey team. Brad also works at CIGNA as a human resources director. They relocated from their native California—where they were registered domestic partners—to Connecticut in 2007, seeking better schools and a better quality of life for their kids.
Brad and Flint adopted Ray and Rick, who are biological siblings, through Los Angeles County’s foster care system when they were 6 and 5 years old. Brad and Flint didn’t intend to have another child until California authorities contacted them about adopting Joseph shortly after his birth. Joseph is a biological sibling to Ray and Rick.

“I feel like our life would be so empty without children,” says Flint, “watching them grow and develop, knowing the circumstances they started in, knowing where they were when we adopted them; to see them grow and mature and become more successful is very rewarding.”

The move to Connecticut also enabled Brad and Flint to get legally married, which they did on March 6, 2009, their 18th anniversary. Brad and Flint originally viewed marriage as simply a way to affirm the commitment they had long ago made to one another. Afterward, they were surprised at how marriage enhanced their relationship.

“There’s something that happened, a different feeling,” says Brad, “a strength between us from being able to say ‘we’re married’ and not just, ‘we’re life partners, and we have a certificate of domestic partnership.’”

“It was a very important step to take and a very important statement also—a statement to our children that their family counted just as much.”

But because of DOMA, their family does not count as much as other families do in the eyes of the federal government. Brad and Flint cannot file their federal taxes jointly as other married couples can. They paid an extra $8000 in federal income tax for the year 2010. They expect to continue paying more taxes as long as DOMA is on the books.

“We’re just looking to be treated equally, like other married couples” says Flint. “And eight thousand dollars to a lot of people is significant, and it is significant to us. There are a lot of things it could do for our family.” The couple easily ticks off a list of ways they would put their money to good use, from paying college tuition to buying groceries.

“We’re treated differently than my co-workers because of a federal law,” says Brad. “It’s just not right.”