Unless part of your holiday traditions involves turning off the TV and Internet, you’ve heard the news by now: On Friday, Dec. 20, while many of us were staring at the clock on our computers waiting to go home, a federal judge, seemingly out of nowhere, deemed Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional.
I was blindsided. Even though I work in news, there was no thought in my mind that this was something that could happen so quickly. I figured it would take years of court cases before many of our fellow Utahns would be able to be legally married in this state. All I could do was stare at Twitter for a few hours as the news poured in.
But hundreds of gay couples who had been waiting for this moment—for months, for years, for decades—were not so slow to react. On Friday and Saturday, county clerk offices were crushed with people applying for licenses and getting married on the spot—and the response isn’t letting up.
This is a huge moment for Utah, and an even bigger one for these couples. And, of course, it’s a big moment for those who oppose same-sex marriage, too—though beyond the predictable Facebook fights, I didn’t see any public protests forming on Friday. And it took hours for the state to organize and request an emergency stay on gay marriages. Meanwhile, hundreds of gay couples had dropped everything to go get married. For all the outcry about how gay marriage weakens traditional marriage, it seems the immediate effects of Friday’s ruling were felt only by those whose ability to get married had been changed.
Monday morning, the same federal judge who on Friday struck down the ban denied the emergency stay that Gov. Gary Herbert had requested, stating that the state had taken too long to file the stay. And meanwhile, the status quo had changed.
Those who have been to the county clerk offices have said that it’s an amazing, joyful scene. On Monday, reporter Eric S. Peterson told me, the line at the Salt Lake County Clerk’s Office wrapped around two floors. Couples were wearing matching colors; many had children in tow. Christmas carols were sung, and people had dropped off donuts and coffee for those waiting in line. After the stay was denied, a cheer erupted at the clerk’s office, a wave of relief washing over the crowd.
There will still be court battles and drama ahead. Several county clerks are refusing to issue same-sex marriage licenses. The state will certainly file an appeal. This is only the beginning of the story—and we’ll be here for the whole journey. Eric was at the clerk’s office at 7 this morning, talking to newlyweds. Our new reporter, Colby Frazier, was at the federal courthouse for the ruling on the stay. No matter what happens in the days ahead, we’ll be covering this issue full-bore—after all, with Swallow’s resignation, we lost about 80 percent of our normal news topics.
So, let us know what you’d like to know about gay marriage in Utah. Updates from lawmakers? Wedding announcements from gay couples? E-mail email@example.com. And you can always tweet us at @CityWeekly.