On Friday, December 20, 2013 a federally appointed district judge named Robert J. Shelby (in office since September 2012, endorsed by both Utah Republican Senators, Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee) issued a ruling that found the State of Utah's Constitutional Amendment 3 (proclaiming marriage to be only between one man and one woman) to be unconstitutional.
Friday began as a fairly laid-back day. K and I had both taken the day off work, so that we could have plenty of time to cook & bake in preparation for our Winter Solstice celebration with family and friends, planned for Saturday the 21st.
Since we hadn't spent much time with my teenaged brother recently, we decided to invite him over to shop & cook & play games with us for the day. I picked him up at about 9 in the morning, while K cooked a delightful breakfast for us all. We ate apple-spice bacon and maple-blueberry sausages from Whole Foods, toast from Trader Joe's with fresh peach jam from Liberty Heights Fresh, fried eggs from our Mom's chickens, and orange juice (Western Family, from Harmon's - not even organic, but delish!).
We played with the cats, my brother helped us wash tons of dishes, and at about 11:15 I drove him over to the Unitarian Church, where he was helping the other teens in his church group set up tables & chairs for that evening's Solstice program -- a fundraiser for him and his peers to travel for a service learning trip. While he was helping out there for a while, K and I ran around Sugarhouse to Whole Foods, Bed Bath & Beyond, and Barns & Noble, finding last-minute holiday gifts for co-workers and friends.
We picked up my brother again at about 1:30, and had a couple more errands to run - Trader Joe's for veggies, and the Wine Store (I had signed up to bring a bottle to the Solstice Fundraiser). Walking out of Trader Joe's, K handed me her phone, where I read a text message a co-worker had just sent to her -- stating that Judge Shelby had just released his 53-page ruling, overturning Amendment 3!
I had known that 3 Utah couples had recently sued the state, and even that the Judge hearing their arguments a couple of weeks before had set a self-imposed deadline of January 7 (my birthday) by which we would know his ruling. But to hear the ruling so soon was a shock -- both of us had chills and butterflies reading the news.
Since we were hanging out with my brother, though, we didn't have our noses attached to our phones, and so we didn't see or hear about the consequent run on the Salt Lake County Offices by same-sex couples within the hours to come . . . we finished our jaunt to the Wine Store, then once we were back home, my brother and I settled into a game of Monopoly while K studiously began filling out an application that her work had opened for the promotion she will be receiving soon.
It wasn't until 4:10, when my Step-dad called my phone, that we realized this wasn't going to be the normal, laid-back day we had thought -- the conversation went something like this:
G: "Are you meeting us at the courthouse?"
Elaine: *sighs, rolls eyes, laughs, rolls dice for Monopoly turn* "Everyone keeps calling us and saying we should go down for the Press Conference at 4, I know the Pride Center set up an event to celebrate the ruling . . ."
G: "I will pay for your Marriage License! Your Mom and I have food in the oven, but we will do anything we can to meet you down there as soon as possible!"
Elaine to Kristen: "G says he'll pay for our Marriage License! Hmm, I guess I better take a shower."
Elaine to G: "Okay, okay! I'll jump in the shower, and we'll meet you at the courthouse, well, the county offices, the marriage license office is on 2100 S and State, that's where the Pride Center's event is."
G: "Alright, call us back when you're on your way!"
Elaine: *laughing* "Really, you and Mom will meet us there? It's already 4:15, the thing will have already started . . ."
G: *pppfffttt* "Will I meet you down there!? I will crawl on my hands and knees over broken glass if I have to! *sounds like he's getting teary-eyed*
Elaine: "Awww, you're a sweetheart. Okay, I'll call back when we're heading out."
Now at this point, I actually did not know that the County was issuing licenses to same-sex couples. I thought the Pride Center was planning a nice, feel-good, celebratory press conference. But after my five-minute shower and once K, my brother, and I were in the car -- I pulled out my phone.
Only to find out, in astonishment, that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, asexual, pansexual (etc!) friends of mine were currently getting married! In Salt Lake City, Utah! That officiants were there, marrying people as soon as they filled out their paperwork!
When I pulled open the news article that stated that, within hours of the ruling, a Salt Lake City official had announced he saw no reason for County Clerks to deny licenses to same-sex couples, our quick car ride down to the county offices suddenly became a race against time.
The offices close at 5! There's probably a line! Maybe if we're in line by 5:00, they'll stay open for a while and let us get our license! There's no way Utah won't appeal this immediately! We might be on our way to actually get married, right now, tonight!
K said that if we had a sunroof, we would have been standing up, holding a sign outside it, "We're late to our WEDDING!!!" while honking to get through traffic.
Our best friend called, having just gotten off work because she was super sick:
L: "Oh my god! Are you on your way to the Courthouse!?"
Elaine: "YES!!! Can you believe this!?"
L: "I am on my way to the Courthouse too!!! Don't you dare get married before I get there! I mean, hurry up and get in there, but please wait for me!"
E: "Wait, don't you have dinner plans!?"
L: "Yes but I'm as sick as a dog and just left work early, but I can't miss this no matter how sick I am!!!"
All of us were laughing, crying, trying not to cry, and screaming at traffic lights. We pulled into the parking lot at 4:45, all three of us jumping out and running, laughing, up to the building. As we passed reporters and other same-sex couples also walking briskly toward the building, we smiled and waved shyly, continuing our run.
As we approached the lobby inside, on the main floor of the building, we noticed that every 30 to 60 seconds or so, huge celebratory cheers and applause were erupting in the growing crowd -- each time a wedding officiant proclaimed a couple "husband and husband," or "wife and wife."
We jumped into the elevator, jumped out at the second floor, and joined the back of the line -- about 40 or 50 couples in front of us were wrapping around the corner wall from the County Clerk's office. We tightly hugged our teary-eyed friends, all of us grinning in amazement from ear to ear -- those who were in line ahead of us already, and those who came later and passed us, heading toward the back of the line.
As volunteers & County Clerk workers began handing out applications & pens, telling us they would do their best to accommodate everyone in line with a completed application before 5:00, we raced to fill out all the information in the next 10 minutes. Not minding a bit who heard, and to the great amusement of my parents & siblings around us, I started pelting questions: What's your Social Security Number!? What year were you born!? (You don't know my birthday!?) You were born in Ohio, right!? (Of course I was, you already knew that!) What was your mother's maiden name!? I've never met your mother! Oh my goodness you don't know where your mother was born? You'd better call your Dad!
We took camera-phone photos with friends, acquaintances, and strangers. We took photos for the lesbian couple behind us who had been together for 17 years, and were here in line just the two of them, in town from Moab, visiting family for the holidays. G left to take my brother to the Solstice event at the church (we forgot about his bag in our car, and the wine we had bought for the fundraiser -- I hope they had enough others bring drinks) and brought back my little sister to be there with us all.
We let a couple in line ahead of us, when Security officers began cutting off the line around 5:45. We had met one of them when we all helped each other to organize the Join The Impact Rally & March at the City & County Building downtown in November 2008, right after Proposition 8 passed in California. This day, only 5 years later, had felt back then like it would never come in our lifetimes, as we gathered to mourn after receiving that news in 2008.
They let another couple in line in front of us a few minutes later, and we couldn't find it in us to be upset or annoyed, because this couple had two or three little kids there with them to celebrate their parents' marriage. Possibly, these couples we let in line ahead of us would receive their licenses while we may be turned away . . . but they had children, they needed the recognition more! They shared mint chocolate squares with us. The clock was ticking, and the marriage officiants had moved upstairs to start marrying couples right as they left the office holding their certificate, so they wouldn't even have to go downstairs to get married. The news cameras were everywhere.
It was 6:00, and we were nearing the clerk's counter inside the glass doors. Our friend who had offered to officiate for us came back by us in line, to tell us that Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker was here to marry people, and had just announced he would stay there all night if he had to, in support of all of us! Our friend said he wouldn't be offended if we would rather be married by the Mayor, so of course we hugged & thanked him, and wrote in Mayor Becker's name on our application, next to: Name of Person to Officiate.
The couple from Moab in line behind us wondered aloud, who will we have marry us? I turned around to ask them, would you like me to do it? I've been a Certified Humanist Minister since 2011, and would be honored to officiate for you! They nodded eagerly, and I wrote in my name on their application.
We made it inside the glass doors and to the counter at 6:22! This was really happening! Two of our dearest friends, K & M, were already walking out with their forms as we were approaching the counter! Our best friend's boyfriend joined her, and they and my Mom sat inside the clerk's office with us, while G waited right outside the doors with my little sister, all of them taking photos and videos of us waiting in line, approaching the counter, holding each other as we watched the official document be typed onto the computer screen, paying our application fee, and receiving our forms.
The photo our friend M captured right as we left the glass doors with our forms in hand was published two days later in the Salt Lake Tribune. She was also there in 2008, helping us to plan the Rally & March protesting Prop 8. We cut out the article to save & frame it.
We gathered my Mom and G to be Mary Elizabeth & Leta's witnesses, I performed a brief & tearful ceremony for them, and while we were all signing their papers, K was next in line for us to be married by Mayor Becker! After quick final hugs, photos & best wishes, I dashed over to K just in time to hand Mayor Becker's assistant our paperwork, and in front of our Mom, Step-dad, little sister, and four best friends, we were legally married by the Mayor of Salt Lake City at about a quarter to 7 p.m.
I'll post tomorrow about what the following week has been like for us newly-weds. But I hope that our experience can be shared with many, across the state of Utah and the country, because the personal experiences of those of us who were in line with our friends & family members that night, speak volumes about this so-called political issue of same-sex marriage. This moment in history is truly about the families that were recognized and expanded that day and in the days to follow. It's about the hugs, smiles, tears, and photos that were shared as all of us were able to join in love and excitement together.