This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2015, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
In matching blue suits, wide grins and a few tears, the couple at the center of the historic federal lawsuit that overturned Utah's ban on same-sex marriage were married on Sunday, pledging to love and support each other through the journey of life.
Like many others who marry, Derek Kitchen and Moudi Sbeity wrote their own vows, their words echoing the promises that many make on their wedding day: patience, support, unconditional acceptance and a willingness to listen, learn and grow together over time and through challenges yet unknown.
"I commit myself to accept you for who you are whether or not I can fully understand you or comprehend your feelings," Kitchen told Sbeity with a confidence that belied any wedding jitters. "I know that love must be worked for and once achieved, be maintained. I am grateful for the opportunity to love you."
"You are my companion, my fellow adventurer and my fellow risk-taker," Sbeity said, adding that he felt the same butterflies on Sunday that he did six years ago when the pair first met.
Sbeity said his love for Kitchen wasn't defined by any grand moment or gesture, not was it love at first sight.
"There were multiple moments that over time, have proved that you are good for me and I am good for you," he said. "Together we are stronger and can accomplish more. .... I love you."
Then after an exchange of rings, a kiss and barking approval of the couple's cherished dog, Kaya came cheers and applause from a joyful and enthusiastic crowd of nearly 1,000 well-wishers who gathered at Gallivan Center in downtown Salt Lake City under skies that had gone from drizzly and gray to bright blue.
"Now we share each other's debts," Sbeity joked to reporters after the ceremony, while clutching hands with his husband. "And we share our love. It was a long time coming and it feels like … it feels like the best accomplishment I've ever had in my life."
The couple, who will now use the hyphenated last name, Sbeity-Kitchen, say they'll spend their week-long honeymoon camping away from the spotlight they've lived in since the Kitchen v. Herbert case was filed in March 2013.
"We're going to disconnect," Kitchen said.
Although they're ready to be out of the public eye, Kitchen, 26, and Sbeity, 27, say they chose to celebrate their nuptials with the community celebration because the legal battle they fought for the right to marry has changed the lives of so many in Utah's gay community.
"Victories are worth celebrating with everybody," Sbeity said, a few hours before the ceremony. "This was a victory won, not only by the attorneys and the plaintiffs, but everybody who stood behind us and next to us and cheered us on. This moment belongs just as much to everybody else as it does to us."
Same-sex marriage became legal in Utah on Dec. 20, 2013, when U.S. District Court Judge Robert J. Shelby struck down the state's ban on gay unions as unconstitutional.
In the ruling, Shelby sided with Kitchen, Sbeity and four other plaintiffs whose attorneys had argued that Utah law barring gay unions violated the protections of the 14th Amendment and that the right to due process related to marriage should apply to all.
The 53-page Kitchen v. Herbert decision the first to come after the U.S. Supreme Court had struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act had reverberations far beyond the Beehive State, providing a legal roadmap for other judges who have cited its findings in every subsequent challenge of state marriage laws nationwide.
That's more than doubled the number of states that allow same-sex unions. In April, the nation's high court did finally hear a consolidated case from the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which many expect to legalize same-sex marriage for the nation. A decision is expected in June.
Utah, which had banned gay marriage both through legislation and a voter-approved constitutional amendment, twice fought Shelby's decision through appeals. Both times the state lost first in a June 2014 decision from the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, and again in October 2014, when the U.S. Supreme Court let stand multiple circuit court rulings that had overturned marriage-equality bans effectively legalizing same-sex marriage in Utah and 10 other states.
"Derek and Moudi and the other plaintiffs in Kitchen broke down the walls that were standing between same-sex couples in Utah and marriage-equality," said Peggy Tomsic, the attorney who argued the case and walked Sbeity down the aisle on Sunday. "They broke the chains that the state of Utah had placed around love and marriage. Love isn't about your sexual orientation. It is about who you find in life that you want to share your dreams with."
Tomsic and her partner of 15 years, Cindy Bateman, were among the estimated 1,300 Utah couples who rushed to clerks' offices for marriage licenses after Shelby's ruling, hoping to tie the knot before Utah could block the unions with a stay.
Tomsic said she's watched the relationship between Sbeity and Kitchen deepen through the emotional ups and downs of the court case that some in the national gay rights movement didn't initially embrace because Utah wasn't seen as "the place" to fight for marriage equality.
"But Derek and Moudi stood strong with the other plaintiffs and they said, 'Utah is the time, the place and we're going to do it,' " she said to cheers. "And we did."
Tomsic also roused the crowd when she noted the Sbeity-Kitchen wedding was taking place in a public square just two blocks from the headquarters of the Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which preaches that marriage is an institution created by God that should only be between a man and a woman.
Mormon leaders have been consistently politically active in efforts to ban gay marriage across the U.S. since the 1990s and lobbied Congress in 2004 for a constitutional amendment to protect traditional marriage.
Tomsic wasn't the only one Sunday noting the wedding's unique juxtaposition between the personal and the political. Mike Thompson was director of Equality Utah in 2004 when some 66 percent of Utah voters passed Amendment 3, which barred same-sex unions and was overturned by the Shelby ruling. He sent a text to the couple on Sunday, thanking them for stepping forward to fight for their rights.
"They broke through what we tried to do on the legislative and electorate side," said Thompson, who now runs the LGBT Community Center of the Desert in Palm Springs, Calif. "It's no small thing."
Back in March 2013, when Kitchen and Sbeity sought a Utah marriage license, they were politely turned away by Salt Lake County clerks, with a gentle reminder that Utah law would not recognize, nor sanction their relationship.
But it was a different story last week when the pair went back to try again.
"A few people stopped us to congratulate us and we had [Salt Lake County Clerk] Sherrie Swensen sign our actual license," Sbeity said. "And it felt normal. It felt like any other couple."
When the Shelby ruling came down, Sbeity and Kitchen, who have been a couple since 2009 and together operate the Middle Eastern food company, Laziz, decided against rushing to the altar. They wanted, they said, time to plan the ceremony and celebration they had long imagined.
Hours before the ceremony Sunday friends and family of Sbeity and Kitchen were scurrying to transform the Gallivan Center into an outdoor wedding chapel, complete with flowers, lanterns with flickering candles and an arch of greenery for the couple to walk under before heading down the aisle.
"We wouldn't miss this for the world," Charles Chan-Massey, told Kitchen in response to his thanks as the groom rushed to take pictures with family.
Chan-Massey and his husband, Joseph, traveled from Los Angeles for the wedding and met Sbeity and Kitchen through social media after the Shelby decision came down. In 2014, they came to Utah to march in the state's annual Pride Parade with other newly married same-sex couples.
"This is history, they are good guys and this has been a long time in the making," Charles Chan-Massey said. "For me, the generations that follow will see that this is just part of life. It's not anything different."