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Peg McEntee: Court's gay marriage decision a victory for all

Published June 26, 2013 9:28 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

It was a quick kiss, but it meant everything to the two men who had flown from Florida to New York City to be married a year ago.

They'd been together for 28 years and had a home, careers, dogs and a love of traveling. Their commitment was unshakable. That moment in a Manhattan courtroom was proof.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that married gay couples were entitled to federal benefits and, by deciding not to rule on a case from California, allowed gay marriage to return there.

Those decisions should steer this nation toward a victory for individual rights — the day when marriage is available to all. Countless gay couples have said their vows since 2003, when Massachusetts became the first state to legalize it through a court order. Today, Washington, D.C., and 12 states allow such unions, and more are sure to come.

But for now, not in Utah, and certainly not anytime soon.

"I will support and will continue to defend Utah's constitutional definition of marriage as the legal union between a man and a woman," Gov. Gary Herbert said Wednesday. "I also believe that discrimination has no place in society. I hope we can find a path that protects all from discrimination while defending the sanctity of traditional marriage."

And despite its recent outreach to gay Mormons, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints stated that it remains "irrevocably committed to strengthening traditional marriage between a man and a woman, which for thousands of years has proven to be the best environment for nurturing children."

Tell that to Abigail, who has two married moms, two brothers and a dog and is a fierce and vocal champion of marriage equality.

Or to my old Utah friend, the mother of two wonderful grown children, who now lives in the Bay Area and married her wife in 2008 during California's brief window of legal gay marriage. That, of course, begot the anti-gay marriage Proposition 8, which the LDS Church backed.

On a larger scale, the U.S. military abandoned Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Leon Panetta, the former secretary of Defense, ensured that many privileges once available to straight married service members are available to same-sex couples.

Here in Utah, economic development is a huge priority for Herbert, the Legislature, the business community and anyone who needs a job.

State Sen. Jim Dabakis points out that if a top job candidate is a Californian and in a same-sex marriage, how alluring would this state be?

"You're married and your kids have benefits," said Dabakis, who's been with his partner for 25 years. "Here, you're not going to be married any more, and you'll lose all your federal benefits. It's the sheer, raw practicality of whether we want to continue" opposing same-sex marriage.

Most importantly, though, is the fundamental human need for committed love. The Supreme Court's decision further opens the door for countless couples to enjoy not just commitment but legal marriage.

As Nikki Boyer, president of the board of directors of Utah Pride, tearfully put it: "It's been a long time coming. I'm just happy it came in my lifetime … it is justice for us all."

Peg McEntee is a news columnist. Reach her at pegmcentee@sltrib.com, facebook.com/pegmcentee and Twitter, @Peg McEntee.