Trini and Heather, a recently-married Evanston couple, who drove to Salt Lake City once a district judge overturned the state’s ban on same-sex marriages, wait in a long line at the courthouse to purchase a marriage license and get married Dec. 23, 2013. (COURTESY PHOTO)
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — The U.S. Supreme Court put a temporary stop to same-sex marriages in Utah Monday, granting the state’s request for a stay until its appeal is heard by the Denver-based 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.
There, the court will also hear from the attorneys of three same-sex couples who sued the state, challenging Utah’s Amendment 3, which bans same-sex unions. The suit led to the lifting of the ban last month when U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby ruled it was unconstitutional “because it denies the Plaintiffs their rights to due process and equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution.”
Over 900 marriage licenses were issued by counties across Utah before the Supreme Court stepped in, mostly to same-sex couples.
One of those licenses was issued to two Evanston women, who, on Dec. 23, drove across the state line and returned a happily married couple.
Trini and Heather have chosen not to disclose their last name — they’re actually still trying to decide if one will take the other’s name — but they are both “out” and have been in a longtime relationship with each other.
“We were actually pretty shocked,” Heather said. “It wasn’t just about getting married.”
“We waited in line for seven hours,” Trini said. “There was no second thought, we just went down and got married.”
Hundreds celebrated outside the Salt Lake County Courthouse and lines wrapped through and around the county clerk’s office.
The couple said they’ve been active in the movement to lift the ban in Utah, but not so much in Wyoming because they want to minimize any negative impact it may have on their children. They own homes in Evanston and Utah and said they’re weighing their options as to which place to make their home moving forward.
“We aren’t sure whether to move there or stay here,” Trini said. “We’re trying to figure that out.”
One thing, they know for sure, Trini said, is that they want to see same-sex marriages legal in every state.
Many locals were also pleased with the lifting of the ban.
“When I found out they lifted the ban on gay marriage, I was excited,” Evanston resident Randa Bonner said. “I never in a million years thought Utah, of all places, would lift the ban on gay marriage. I don’t know how everyone else feels about this but me, being a part of the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) community, I am happy.”
The Uinta County Democrats issued a statement to the Herald, also praising the initial decision to allow same-sex marriages across the border.
“The Uinta County Democrats oppose discrimination in any form and against any person for whatever reason,” the statement read. “We oppose government influence in our private lives and as such, support civil marriage for all citizens.
“While we respect traditional legislative processes, we believe the Honorable Judge Shelby ruled justly and fairly to strike down the law created by Utah Proposition 3, and uphold the 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution to due process and equal protection under the law. It is our sincerest hope that the State of Wyoming will follow suit to eradicate all discrimination against the LGBT community, women, and immigrants, and live up to its proud heritage of being the Equality State.”
Evanston resident and business owner Candy DeCoite agreed.
“It needs to be legal all over the U. S. Wyoming claims to be the equality state, let’s prove it,” she said.
Bret McCoy said allowing same-sex marriages doesn’t make “traditional” marriages any less meaningful.
“Well, the gays got married in Salt Lake this afternoon, and straight marriages survived, society didn’t collapse,” McCoy said in an email to the Herald last month after the ban was lifted in Utah. “Families grew instead of breaking. Hm…I love that nothing else was covered on the news tonight. History was made today!”
McCoy said he’s seen some same-sex couples head to Utah to get married but others have been hesitant.
“I’ve noticed a split reaction from our LGBT Community. Some people went and got married; others are waiting for it to be legally recognized in Wyoming. For what good is it to get married if it’s not recognized? I guess there is a cautious optimism though with it striking so close to home.”
How do Trini and Heather feel about it?
“Wonderful,” Trini said. “Heather and I have been together a long time. We’ve wanted to get married for a long time.”
Same-sex marriage is legal in 17 other states and the District of Columbia: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.
The New Mexico Supreme Court ruled unanimously on Dec. 19 in favor of granting marriage rights to same-sex couples.
Several other states have initiatives in upcoming elections to grant same-sex marriage rights.
Twenty-one states plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation. Due to an incident in Wyoming involving the death of Matthew Shepard, a hate crime prevention act was signed into law in 2009 to protect members of the LGBT community.
The ban on same-sex marriage in Utah was passed and voter-ratified in 2004 and the state has been a battleground for gay rights since that time.