He heard sneers. Kids mocked him in their pretend Asian voices. They called him "gook."
Being bullied would shape him and his views. "My perspective was built up on being different on this journey through life."
Now 51, Ellis was drawn to the Republican Party during the Reagan era. He found Then-President Ronald Reagan's calls for personal responsibility and growing the economy through private enterprise inspiring. He's been a Republican ever since, eventually becoming the chairman of the GOP in Maine. He is currently the communications director for Maine Senate Republicans.
As this election neared, Ellis thought long and hard about how vocal he should be about same-sex marriage.
"That's something I had to work through personally with an eye on who I'm going to offend and am I going to limit myself professionally or politically. I was sort of weighing all of those things on how public I should be."
He couldn't help but recall his own marriage, 28 years ago. He knew the nation once barred interracial couples like him and his wife, who is white, from marrying. Opponents then used arguments that sound eerily similar to those against gays today, he thought.
Ultimately, Ellis joined a coalition of Republicans for marriage equality and took to his blog to broadcast his support.
"My vote of 'yes' is not based in some radical desire to toss tradition out on its ear or to discount marriage as we know it today," he wrote. "My vote comes from the simple notion that acknowledges the powerful, positive potential [that] loving and committed couples hold for their families, communities, and society."
A vote for dignity
Michael Clark, 35, blazed a trail early on. He was the first openly gay person in his high school in southern Oregon. He faced constant bullying, but he also had "people around me saying that I deserve respect and dignity."
"I had teachers, I had friends, I had community members who would jump to my defense," he says.
At Southern Oregon University, he and his partner were among the first to get a domestic partnership in the town of Ashland. He was 20. "We just knew early on that we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together."
Yet they longed for more. They got married in Canada in the early 2000s, but it felt empty. "It was odd knowing that we were married and equal people in Canada," he says, "but the moment we crossed our borders again, it was all bets off."
They have been together half their lives now. Living in the suburbs of Seattle, the two were anxious to vote on same-sex marriage in Washington.
"My husband and I are not a Norman Rockwell painting, but we're a family that loves one another," he says. "I don't want to be domestically partnered forever and ever. I want to be married to the person that I love.
"Here's the exciting thing to me. We get to define what America is, and America continues to evolve."
As a teacher who hopes to become a principal, Clark kept his political beliefs to himself inside the classroom. Casting his ballot, he thought of the leaders within the gay rights community who had gone before him; of his partner; and of the future generations who would grow up knowing "they can love and marry whomever they want."
"It really felt like it was a vote for dignity and respect and standing up for that," he says.
Fellow teachers visited his classroom the day after the election. They offered congratulatory hugs.
On December 6, he and his partner will call in sick. That day they will wed.
A parents' love
Among the items in the Wilfahrt home in Minnesota is a pen from President Barack Obama. It was used to sign the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell," the policy that required gays in the military to hide that part of their lives or risk being kicked out.
The White House sent the pen to the Wilfahrts after Andrew was killed in Afghanistan, the first gay soldier killed after the repeal.
Cpl. Wilfahrt became a rallying cry for gay rights supporters. Floats bearing his image have wound down the streets of Minneapolis and St. Paul at the annual pride parade the last two years.
Republican state Rep. John Kriesel, a war veteran who was nearly killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq, passed around Wilfahrt's image at the legislature. He told his colleagues: "I cannot look at this picture and say, 'Corporal, you were good enough to fight for your country and give your life, but you were not good enough to marry the person you love."
Kriesel's speech was turned into an advertisement by supporters of marriage equality and broadcast around Minnesota before Election Day.
Lori Wilfahrt worried her son's death would be in vain if they failed to stop the amendment.
Jeff Wilfahrt told anyone who would listen that his son and other gays were citizens of the state who should never be denied rights. "Very early on," he says, "we took a position to protect citizenship."
Never afraid to voice his opinion, Jeff once challenged opponents as to how they would prove a couple who wanted to get married were a man and a woman: "Will you as a human being, as an American, as a Minnesotan, be asked to open your trousers or to have your skirt lifted when applying for a license to marry?"
On Election Day, the Wilfahrts arrived at their polling place and waited as the poll worker scrolled through the list of registered voters. They both saw it: Right above Jeff's name was Andrew's.
They told the poll worker their son was killed in Afghanistan, that his name shouldn't be on the list. She was embarrassed and said, "I know. I've seen both of you on television."
The two then went in to mark their ballots. Lori checked hers about 10 times before casting it. "To me, in some ways, it's the last thing I can do for him."
As they prepared to leave, an election judge pulled them aside. They were asked to sign an official deceased voter voucher.
"Here you are before your government declaring your son is dead after that vote," Jeff says. "I can't even put it into words: Why now? Why this place?
"It was like a really weird closure."
Another strange, daily reminder of their profound loss.
That night, Jeff went to bed early; he lost his own bid for a state representative seat. Lori stayed up, alone, awaiting the results on the amendment issue.
Four years earlier, she'd spent election night with Andrew, a joyous occasion when the two celebrated Obama's victory. Minnesota had tried then to amend the Constitution to add a sales tax to help wildlife causes. Andrew told family members: "Oh, no, you don't want to do that. You hardly ever want to amend the Constitution!"
That conversation kept going through her mind this election night. Finally, in the wee hours Wednesday, came the news: The Constitution would not be amended to limit marriage.
It was a victory Andrew would embrace.