Hundreds of LGBTQ community members, advocates and supporters circled together in Salt Lake City’s Library Square on Monday evening to give a united farewell to couples in the Utah same-sex marriage case Kitchen v. Herbert.
“The responsibilities and the benefits of marriage to gay and lesbian couples not only will make Utah stronger, but our nation stronger as well,” said Utah news anchor Terry Wood. “The plaintiffs, eight people who managed to marry here in Utah — what a variety and spice of life they are. People from dairy farmers to medical personal to engineers, just people like everybody else who share the same values.”
As plaintiffs, lawyers and family members gave short speeches, more than 200 paper hearts were passed to Derek Kitchen, Moudi Sbeity, Kate Call, Laurie Wood and Kody Partridge to take with them this week on their journey to Denver, where judges in the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals will hear their case Thursday.
The hearts said “FREEDOM means freedom for everyone,” and each one had personal handwritten messages on it, such as the one Rachel Motschiedler wrote, which said “fight hard.”
Laurie Wood and Partridge were married on Dec. 20, 2013, after U.S. District Judge Robert J. Shelby found Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional. Shelby wrote, “Utah’s prohibition on same-sex marriage conflicts with the United States Constitution’s guarantees of equal protection and due process under the law.”
Laurie Wood said they have read the briefs and are cautiously optimistic, but believe in their lawyers and in the judges to do what they feel is right. She added that the support from the evening was great and that she thinks Utah is ready to be the great state it could be.
“The event was great,” she said. “For people to come straight from work and run over here . . . it means a lot, because it would be really scary to do this alone. I’m so glad there are other plaintiffs and we are like a team, but we know all these people are wishing us well. The country is definitely on a momentum, and so many things have happened, (so) I am optimistic.”
Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker said it was great to see such a large, energetic crowd giving support and working to make a difference.
“There is a feeling around this movement that’s unlike almost anything I’ve ever been around, of love and commitment and joy in trying to accomplish something that is so personal for everyone involved,” Becker said. “For me, tonight was just another great expression of that, and great to be a part of.”
The Salt Lake City chapter organizer for Marriage Equality USA, Colleen Mewing, who is a Weber State University alumna and a previous editor-in-chief of The Signpost, smiled and took pictures with friends and family at the event. She and her wife, Jolene Mewing, married on Dec. 23, 2013. On Thursday they will host the Community Rally for Marriage Equality at the Salt Lake City and County Building, 5:30-6:30 p.m., and she said anyone is welcome to join.
“We are excited, we are excited to support them (the plaintiffs),” said Jolene Mewing. “What they have done for this community, there are just no words to express our gratitude, so to be here to celebrate them off like this feels really good.”
Colleen Mewing said she felt like the energy at the event was amazing, because she could feel it in the crowd. But there is a downside too she said, such as Call’s story. Call’s wife is terminally ill and could not be there.
Colleen said Call’s story touches people and makes them think about how the same rights are not given to everyone, adding that it shows the urgency and necessity for equality in Utah.
“It’s like what Mark Lawrence said today: ‘It was the right thing to do,'” Colleen said. “That’s what they’ve done. They’ve taken a huge step in the state of Utah with the predominant Mormon religion here and have made strides people didn’t think were possible. There were a lot of naysayers in the beginning, but look where we are now.”
The case will be heard by a three-judge panel: Judge Paul J. Kelly Jr., an appointee of President George H.W. Bush; Judge Carlos F. Lucero, appointed by President Bill Clinton; and Judge Jerome A. Holmes, appointed by President George W. Bush.
The same panel will hear arguments a week later in Bishop v. Oklahoma, the challenge to Oklahoma’s same-sex marriage ban.
“I have no doubt where it’s going, and I know that all the states are falling down like dominoes,” Jolene Mewing said. “I know what the courts are going to say. To keep people from having basic civil rights, like marriage, it’s against the Constitution, so we know the judges will make the right decision, and I wish it was sooner than later, but maybe another year down the road, I think we are going to have full equality across all 50 states.”