This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
They never will forget where they were that Friday afternoon a little more than a year ago, the day that life in Utah took on a distinctly surreal glow with more than a few people asking: "Is this actually happening? Here?"
"They" are the partners in loving relationships who suddenly won the right to have their family commitments recognized by the state.
Hundreds of couples wasted no time. They left work, changed plans put the rest of their lives on hold and rushed to county clerks' offices to apply for marriage licenses. For many, it was the culmination of a long-held dream. For some, it carried immediate practical importance, the ability to do such things as make decisions about a loved one's welfare. For others, it was a symbolic repeat of vows made in another state. And for still others, it was simple, passionate spontaneity.
For all, it was an acknowledgment of the deep affection and sense of loyalty each has for the other.
In striking down the state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, U.S. District Judge Robert J. Shelby wrote that the law "perpetuates inequality by holding that the families and relationships of same-sex couples are not now, nor ever will be, worthy of recognition."
"Amendment 3 does not thereby elevate the status of opposite-sex marriage; it merely demeans the dignity of same-sex couples," he reasoned. "And while the state cites an interest in protecting traditional marriage, it protects that interest by denying one of the most traditional aspects of marriage to thousands of its citizens: the right to form a family that is strengthened by a partnership based on love, intimacy, and shared responsibilities."
While Utahns were stunned many happily so, others the polar opposite there were six people, three couples, who perhaps didn't think their cause would advance so quickly but were confident that they were on the right side of history.
These six people put their names to the lawsuit challenging Amendment 3. They stood up, stood together and helped history along.
Through 2014, they rode the legal roller coaster to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which upheld Shelby's ruling, and onto the U.S. Supreme Court, which issued a stay on the ruling. In October, the high court declined to hear appeals from Utah and four other states. In essence, the denial made same-sex marriage legal in those states.
Because of these Utah plaintiffs who bravely made public their most private lives the state took an unlikely position among the vanguard in the biggest civil-rights movement of the day. Forever, their names will be associated with a tidal wave of change that swept the country.
For that, Derek Kitchen and Moudi Sbeity, Karen Archer and Kate Call, Laurie Wood and Kody Partridge are The Salt Lake Tribune Utahns of the Year. Their stories start on PAGE A6.
Terry Orme is The Tribune's editor and publisher. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Previous Utahns of the Year
2013 • Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill
2012 • Mormons Building Bridges
2011 • Salt Lake City Police Chief Chris Burbank
2010 • Kidnapping survivor Elizabeth Smart, her mother, Lois, and her sister, Mary Katherine
2009 • Kidnapping survivor Elizabeth Smart
2008 • Utah entrepreneur and philanthropist Larry H. Miller
2007 • First responders to tragedies including the Trolley Square shooting rampage and the Crandall Canyon Mine disaster
2006 • Latino leaders Jorge Fierro, Andrew Valdez, Ruby Chacon and Alma Armendariz
2005 • Pamela Atkinson, advocate for the poor
2004 • Utahns killed in Iraq and Afghanistan
2003 • Gov. Olene Walker
2002 • LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley
2001 • 2002 Winter Games organizer Mitt Romney
2000 • Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson
1999 • The letter that sparked the Olympic bribery scandal
1998 • Mary Ann Kingston, who suffered a brutal beating after escaping plural marriage
1997 • NBA MVP Karl Malone
Tribune readers weigh in
More than 8,000 Salt Lake Tribune readers voted online at sltrib.com for our annual Utahn of the Year.
Attorney General Sean Reyes led the field, netting 22 percent of the total. Steve Young, director of the Veterans Affairs Health Care System in Salt Lake City, was second with 15 percent. Mia Love, who made history as the first black Republican woman elected to Congress, snagged 13 percent of the votes followed by Utah schoolteachers, as a group, at 11 percent.
The Tribune's top editors selected the six plaintiffs in the Kitchen v. Herbert lawsuit that resulted in same-sex marriage becoming legal in Utah. Two of those plaintiffs, Derek Kitchen and Moudi Sbeity, were on the ballot, and received 6 percent of the votes. If you combined all the nominees who were involved in the same-sex debate and were on the ballot, together they received 13 percent of the votes.
Nominees came from Tribune readers. The poll is not a scientific sample as people self-select on whether they choose to participate.
To see the complete poll results, go to http://bit.ly/1AYHt8j.