For about two weeks, I had what felt like the black death. It ran rampant through my workplace and I was unlucky enough to get hit with it hard. So bad in fact, my boss sent me home early one day, where I promptly crawled under the covers and fell asleep.
I woke up a few hours later, still in somewhat of a fever-haze and saw the news that a judge struck-down the ban on marriage equality in Utah. I chalked it up to my bacteria-riddled brain and shuffled down the hall to make some tea.
After some of the warm liquid began to clear my head a little bit, more synapses were sparking and I realized my RSS reader had been showing the news coming out of Utah from multiple sources. Suddenly, Utah had marriage equality .
In the ruling, Judge Shelby dismantles every argument against marriage equality : that gay couples can’t procreate without outside assistance, that marriage equality is creating a “new right,” that history and tradition say marriage should remain exclusively between heterosexual couples, that marriage equality bans are not passed because of animus, that the state should be promoting procreation, that heterosexual parents are the best kinds of parents, that marriage equality is somehow new and unchartered territory and that the citizens of Utah should be allowed to vote on one group’s rights. Each point Judge Shelby smacked down with legal authority, even using Supreme Court Justice Scalia’s own dissent from the Windsor case as a way to show the urgent need for marriage equality.
Throughout the next few days and weeks, two stays were denied and marriages continued. The governor of Utah has done everything he could to roll back marriage equality, calling it chaos , including eventually spending two million dollars to appeal to the US Supreme Court
The Governor even went so far to announce that the state would not recognize the legally valid marriages performed before the stay that was eventually put in place by the US Supreme Court as appeals were filed
The US Government , as well as many other states have stepped forward and said they will recognize the marriages performed, even while Utah, the very state where those marriages took place, will not.
When this decision came down, after a few hiccups (including one county that closed its office to everyone rather than grant same-sex marriage licenses and four counties that blatently broke the law and were in contempt of court for only offering licenses to heterosexual couples ), a record number of couples flooded county offices, filling them for hours on end.
Couples did not know how long they would have, and the urgency was palpable. Like a scavenger hunt, suddenly these couples had stumbled upon some basic civil rights, but they didn’t know how long they would last. Many left work, grabbed their partners and rushed to the nearest court, resulting in lines filled with citizens in hoodies and jeans, and couples getting married without their families, in a rush to obtain the basic protections they had been denied for so long .
“Gay couples are second class citizens in their own country. We don’t have the luxury of planning out our marriage .”
Throughout the day, records were shattered for the sheer number of marriage licenses being produced, and amid the chaos, a heartwarming story emerged of a local Boy Scout and his dad who showed up to pass out pizza to the couples in line and the clerks who were working through their lunches to process as many licenses as they could .
Utah has since allowed the couples who got married to file their taxes jointly , even while refusing to somehow recognize them. That doesn’t make any sense, but that’s what’s going on, the very chaos the governor was afraid was running rampant. In the meantime, the ACLU has filed a lawsuit to force the state to recongize the marriages.
The state asked for ten extra days to submit their briefs , and the plantiffs submited a brief opposing that delay , a delay which was ultimatley granted .
So now that the dust has finally settled in the legal ping-pong battle between civil rights and those opposed, we wait for the courts to rule once more. Utah proved to the country the necessity and urgency of marriage equality.
The pictures of lines winding through buildings, while triumphant and exciting, I can’t help but view with a twinge of sadness. These are loving couples who were forced to wait for so long for basic civil rights, and what should have been a fully joyous occasion, became a battle of logistics to secure what rights they could, even if their friends and family couldn’t be there to witness their vows.
Conservatives in Utah, you may remember, were the major donors to California’s Proposition 8, which banned marriage equality in the state for a time, so, now it is with great pleasure that the Golden State can send this postcard:
It’s hard to fully explain what it’s like to have to claw and scratch you way to full civil equality. Nor would I ever want anyone else to have to go through the uncertainty and isolation that comes with that fight.
And even though this series of events happened half a country away, my heart raced with those couples. My heart beat with those couples, finally able to get a glimmer of the recognition they so desperately deserve.
It can be exhilarating and infuriating, and even downright scary to watch the process, but we can cheer from afar, both as members of the community, or as allies standing shoulder to shoulder.
Marriage equality may be in stasis at the moment, but we can already see the cracks and know that the tide of history is pushing against that wall. It’s a messy business, trying to deny a group their civil rights, as witnessed by the chaos stemming from the governor’s mansion in Utah. But marriage equality will be the law in the Beehive State, it’s only a matter of time at this point.
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