American Foundation for Equal Rights

Marriage News Blog

Witness Testimony: Helen Zia

On the fifth day of trial, writer Helen Zia testified about her experiences with discrimination and how her life changed when she married her wife in 2008.

Testimony Highlights

“I’m beginning to understand what I’ve always read — marriage is the joining of two families. So my family and Lia’s family now relate to each other differently.”

“[My wife]Lia and I spend a lot of time with each other.  We go to social engagements with each other.  We go to work engagements in the world.  And people say, “Well, who’s this person who seems to be hanging on to you awfully close?” And if I say, “Oh, she’s my partner,” I can’t count the number of times people say, “Oh, partner.  Partner in what business?” And Lia and I got used to having to have an answer to that, to say, “Well, we’re partners in life.”  And then we’d just get used to watching the look on their faces, to see whether they got it.  And often it would just be this look of bewilderment:  Oh, what business is life?  Do you mean life insurance?”


“It’s a matter of how our families also relate to people. You know, for me to show up at every family event in Lia’s family, every kind of social engagement in her family, people ask, “Well, who’s she?”  You know, “Who’s this?” And for her parents or for her 94-year-old auntie to say, “Well, this is Helen’s friend,” well, she must be a really good friend because she’s been coming to these events for the last 17 years.  She’s a really good friend.  But “friend” didn’t quite capture it.  ”Partner” they never got.  They never said, “Oh, Helen is Lia’s partner.”  And suddenly they were able to say, “Helen is my daughter-in-law.”