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.