Mullen | At Last: Utah gay and lesbian couples can at least find wedded bliss in California | Miscellaneous | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly

Mullen | At Last: Utah gay and lesbian couples can at least find wedded bliss in California 

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Last week, another of those “save the date” cards landed in our home mailbox—a reminder that the honor of our presence is requested, eventually, at a wedding. We’ve been shelled with them, it seems, all summer.

But this was the first I’ve received with a pair of dancing garden gnomes on one side and a blissfully smiling gay couple on the other.

David Hardy and Jim Brentano are getting married in San Francisco on Oct. 25. David, a Salt Lake City native, is 69. Jim, who grew up in Los Angeles, is 51. They have been committed partners for 27 years, and have shared everything that relationship entails—home ownership, bills, insurance premiums, putting up with quirks of each other’s extended families. David calls theirs “the longest engagement on record.” They always introduce each other as “my fiancé.” That’s because, David says, “We could never call ourselves ‘domestic partners.’ That sounds as if we clean houses for a living.”

Like so many other gays and lesbians in California, their wedding plans have unfolded against the backdrop of Proposition 8, which would amend the state constitution (as Utah did in 2004) and outlaw same-sex marriage. If passed by voters on Nov. 4, Proposition 8 will nullify a May 15 decision of the California Supreme Court that struck down all prohibitions against same-sex marriage. The court on that day ordered the state to start recognizing same-sex marriages on June 17.

Shortly after the court’s decision, UCLA’s Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy projected that about half of California’s more than 100,000 gay and lesbian couples will wed during the next three years and that 68,000 out-of-state couples will travel to California to marry.

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Which makes David and Jim another statistic—a mere number on a county clerk’s database. It’s just like all the straight couples who have married for centuries, which suits them fine. As gay men living for decades in San Francisco, it hasn’t been as rough as it might have been in say, Laramie, Wyo. But as David Hardy peers into his seventh decade, it’s comforting to hope California voters will support his right to love and to marry whomever he chooses.

I knew David for a long while through e-mail, but met him for the first time last summer, when he attended the 50th reunion of the South High School Class of 1957. He and my husband were high school classmates and Kappa Sigma fraternity brothers at the University of Utah. David showed up for dinner and dancing at the Salt Lake Country Club in a blue and white seersucker suit with bright red socks. Simply smashing.

We shared a big laugh at the nametag table when the volunteer handed him the “David Hardy” tag and then, the “David Hardy’s Partner” tag. This, even though he had R.S.V.P.ed with Jim’s full name. Jim had accompanied him to Salt Lake, but had decided not to attend the dinner. Between belly laughs, David said “Hey, at least they’re trying, aren’t they?”

David’s stock is strictly Mormon—his maternal ancestors were part of the first handcart company into the Salt Lake Valley. His parents met while serving in the same LDS mission in the southern United States. They married and had five children.

David dated women in college and tried to make those relationships work. But he always formed stronger bonds with men, including one friend with whom he shared a love of poet W.H. Auden and long, philosophical discussions. That friend died in a car accident while still in college.

“It hit me very hard. I came to realize this is my reality: I’m a homosexual and I will never be able to live in Salt Lake City,” David says. He moved to San Francisco in 1961, shortly after graduating from the U. And there he remains, happily. He’s a maitre d’ at an upscale restaurant; Jim is an office manager for a big brokerage firm.

Neither of them could pass up this moment. “There are really two parts to our story,” David says. “We wanted to exercise the opportunity to affirm the California Supreme decision. But I also had to stand against the outrageous stance of the LDS Church, and their meddling in this political decision.” (The church hierarchy has launched an all-out effort to back Proposition 8, including issuing a recent statement read aloud to California congregations urging them to support it. Other LDS wards have been encouraged to raise and donate funds to the cause.)

“This is my way of saying ‘enough.’ The ayatollahs on North Temple have gone too far. I want to tell everyone that Jim and I have love, respect, companionship, laughter and a healthy admiration for each other. We have as firm a commitment that any two people can make in a society that insists we are nothing. We won’t be marginalized any longer.

“Other than that,” he says, “nothing between us is really changing.”

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