For 17 days this winter, same-sex couples from throughout Utah leapt at the chance to marry.
They came from small towns and big cities. They ranged in age from 20-somethings to 60-somethings and counting. Among them were retirees, health care professionals, dairy farmers, educators, state and county workers, school district employees, lawyers, politicians, sales reps, stay-home moms and dads, people who work in publishing and for nonprofits — in short, they came from every walk of life.
A Salt Lake Tribune analysis found that about 1,200 marriages took place in 22 of Utah’s 29 counties; a majority (61 percent) were lesbian couples. Some have been together years; some for decades. There were couples exchanging rings and vows for the first time, in a moment they never imagined would be possible.
Many had already celebrated their love with commitment ceremonies; some had married — often multiple times — in other states, but decided there was no place like home to make it official and so queued up all over again to say, “I do.”
Those slips of state-sanctioned paper put legal security within reach. Yet fear lingers, and not just about the validity of those marriage licences. Some couples declined to speak to The Tribune because they fear loss of jobs, other discrimination or public ridicule.
The marriage window opened after three couples — Derek Kitchen and Moudi Sbeity; Laurie Wood and Kody Partridge; and Karen Archer and Kate Call — challenged Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage. U.S. District Judge Robert J. Shelby ruled Dec. 20 that the ban was unconstitutional. On Jan. 6, the U.S. Supreme Court put Shelby’s decision on hold while the state challenges it before the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver. That hearing is Thursday.
Those couples’ lives are displayed for inspection in thousands of pages of court documents, shared in courtrooms from Utah to Denver and, perhaps someday, Washington, D.C. But the story is not just about them. It’s about these people, too.
Gene W. Hiibner, 64, and Darren N. Wold, 50, of Mendon, Cache County
Professions • Gene and Darren are dairy farmers.
Met • In 1982, at Utah State University. Darren was a student, while Gene had a part-time job tutoring students taking Italian — though Darren wasn’t in his classes.
Married • Dec. 24, 2013, in Cache County.
Gene on falling in love • We just got along well. I fell in love with him and that was it. I don’t know that there was any particular big reason. It’s pretty tough when you’re a farmer. You have to find someone who will like that lifestyle because it’s a lifestyle.
Darren on falling in love • I fell in love with Gene because of his kindness, his caring. The way he treated me was very special, and then I was able to watch him deal with his parents and farm animals and could see that he had a deep caring for creatures and humans.
Gene on being married • After 30-some years, it just seemed that was what we should do. It was finally possible. I never expected it would be possible in this state. When we heard it on the television that night, Darren asked me to marry him and I don’t know if I answered him but I began to cry. All I could manage was a nod of the head. We had gone through all the legal things of establishing estates and power of attorney, but you were never quite sure it would hold up. And this way we have the same rights as our parents had.
Darren on being married • Being married to me means security — never being forced or being able to be put apart from Gene.
Annalee Howland, 35, and Rickelle A. Lamb, 27, of Price, where they live with their two children
Professions • Annalee works for a nonprofit organization. Rickelle is an assistant manager at a restaurant.
Met • In 2010, after being introduced by friends while living in St. George.
Married • Dec. 23, 2013, in Carbon County.
Annalee on falling in love • There are so many reasons. She’s the most sweet, unconditionally loving human being I’ve ever been so lucky to know.
Rickelle on falling in love • It was because of her sassiness. And because her strengths are my weaknesses and vice versa, and she keeps me very grounded.
Annalee on being married • I never thought in my lifetime that Utah would allow gay marriage. When the news broke, I was so shocked; I thought that’s so awesome. We’d talked about being married, but we didn’t want to run out and get married just because we could. But as the days kept going and the movement started and the judge didn’t grant a stay we thought, “We should do this.” The day we married was our three-year anniversary. I’m still in shock, let’s be honest, but nothing has changed. We have a wonderful relationship and we were already living like we were married. I have an amazing wife. That’s what really matters.
Rickelle on being married • I like being able to know I’ve got a companion, and I’ve got a good one. It was really special for me, the whole moment. We wouldn’t change anything about how it happened, how it went down. I’m a lucky woman.
Liana Teteberg, 70, and Lisa Yoder, 55, of Summit Park
Professions • Lisa is a county sustainability coordinator. Liana is a health care consultant.
Met • In December 2008, via Match.com and began dating on New Year’s Day 2009.
Married • Dec. 23, 2013, in Summit County; July 8, 2013, Orcas Island, Wash.; Buddhist wedding ceremony, Sept. 5, 2010, in Salt Lake City; commitment ceremony, Aug. 7, 2009, in Summit Park.
Liana on falling in love • We’re kindred spirits with shared values, a shared love of family and activities. It was pretty much everything about her. I loved her spirit and her integrity, her artistic talents and her willingness to love my family. It all fell together like it was supposed to. She’s clearly my better half. She brings out the very best in me — and I don’t know how she does it.
Lisa on falling in love • She got me. She understood me. She didn’t have to question everything or ask, “What do you mean by that?” She understood my sense of humor. I love talking with Liana. She’s wise, smart and has a very optimistic and progressive view of things. She’s totally accepting of people — she brings out the best in people. She has a very generous heart.
Liana on being married • It is my way of protecting Lisa. Chances are I’ll pass on before her, and I wanted to make sure there was no question about how our trust was to be administered — or any confusion if one of us is ill about who is in charge: It is our legal spouse. Being legally married gives me the right to say, “I want you to notify my spouse and her name is Lisa Yoder.” To me, it’s made a huge difference. There is a recognition that we now have rights in the eyes of the law and that eases our relationship. Marriage doesn’t make any difference in how we love each other. That was cemented in commitment ceremony with our families.
Lisa on being married • I married to assure the same rights defined by the thousand or so laws that apply to heterosexual couples are applicable to us as well. It’s a matter of equality. But mostly it’s because I love her.
Doug Lott, 55, and Charles Lynn Frost, 59, of Salt Lake City
Professions • Charles is an actor and executive director of a nonprofit organization. Doug is a truck driver.
Met • Unofficially in 2001. Charles spotted Doug seated on the front row, west side, during a performance of “The Laramie Project” produced by Plan-B Theatre Company. Charles spent the rest of his time on stage, trying to avoid eye contact; Doug kept trying to make it. Officially, in 2002, at a bar after being introduced by one of Charles’ friends. Doug: I asked for Charles’ number but when I called two weeks later, he didn’t remember me. I had to remind him I was wearing a black cowboy hat. They say in gay years, two weeks is a lifetime! Charles: It wasn’t until date three that I realized he was the cowboy at the play.
Married • Dec. 26, 2013, in Tooele County; Sept. 15, 2011, New York.
Doug on falling in love • I fell in love with his intelligence, his sense of humor. There is a great deal of depth and strength in the man. There just seems to be so much. He just gives and gives. He is very loving. I love his children, and they treat me wonderfully. We were together when the first grandchild was born. It was a wonderful experience to share. The whole picture is amazing.
Charles on falling in love • The old adage that opposites attract is very true. He’s tall, I’m short. He’s blue collar, I’m white collar. He’s quiet and shy, I’m an extrovert. He can repair anything. I’m, “Call the repairman.” But we love a lot of the same things — wine, theater, dogs. It was a really good fit. We complement each other really, really well. We knew on date one that we were soul mates. Plus, he’s incredibly hot.
Doug on being married • I’ve always felt committed and married to him. We never thought much about marrying until our oldest granddaughter saw a picture of us taken at someone else’s wedding and asked if that was when we got married. I thought it would be neat to be able to say, “Yes, we’re married.” My twin sister is a lesbian. She and her partner, who had cancer last year, have been together for about 21 years but were unable to travel out of state to marry. Then came the Utah ruling, and they asked us to get married along with them. [They chose Tooele because the wait lines were likely to be shorter, a consideration for his sister’s partner.] We do have wills and all that stuff, but it would be nice for Charles to get my Social Security, to have equal rights. I enjoy having the community and our friends know we are committed enough to get married, that we have a loving, committed relationship and take it seriously.
Charles on being married • I always knew I was gay. When I was 20, I went to my LDS bishop and said a woman was in love with me and I loved her but didn’t know what to do. He knew I was gay. He told me that if I married her, it would go away. And if I had children, it would go away faster. We married. We had four children in four years. I repressed my sexuality for a few years, but you are what you are at the core, and I always knew. I also wanted to be a father and raised these kids. I had a choice about staying or leaving. I chose to stay for 19 years. When my life was imploding, I decided I wouldn’t live a lie like that ever again. When marriage equality was just starting to rise as an issue a few years ago, we talked about whether we would marry if we could. I was ambivalent. We studied the issue, talked to a lot of people and realized it was an issue of fairness, justice and equality. We became big advocates of marriage equality. The rapidity with which it’s happened has left me flabbergasted. A decade ago, I never thought I would see marriage equality in my lifetime. And definitely never in Utah. Society is realizing love is love and people deserve to choose who they get to be in love with. That’s why marriage became so important to us.
Ann Marie Martin, 66, and Pauline E. Gill, 69, of Moab, where they live with their dogs, Mikey and Lily
Professions • Ann was director of medical staff services at Holy Cross and then Salt Lake Regional hospitals. Pauline was a pharmaceutical representative for Roche.
Met • In 1969, while sharing an apartment with two women in the Avenues, though neither was out then. They met again in 1985 on the dance floor of a gay bar in Salt Lake City.
Married • Jan. 4, 2014, in Grand County.
Ann on falling in love • I did not think I had those leanings until that night at the bar. When I saw her, I knew she was the one I would love — despite the fact that she was a woman. I really felt like she was the one I was looking for. I told my brother once that I simply fell in love with a woman instead of a man, as if I had no control and it was as normal as it could be. I still believe that. I’m an all-too compulsive person, and she brought thoughtfulness and real kindness into my life. She is very thoughtful of me and others and she is extremely kind, and that is a balance in my life I realized I really needed. She balances me in a way that allows me to be myself.
Pauline on falling in love • When we were in the apartment, I didn’t even really think about her. I wasn’t actively pursuing women and I wasn’t sure what some feelings I had really meant. But when I saw her on the dance floor, I just knew I really wanted to pursue more of a relationship with her. We went skiing the next day, and we’ve been together ever since. Being with her is like coming home. She has a quality of lightness that keeps me laughing. Yet when we are quiet, I feel a deep sense of enjoyment being with her. Her energy is solid. I feel that she will always be there for me.
Pauline on being married • Our relationship has really stood the test of time. I have the relationship of my dreams, where one is not valued above the other and there is no one person who has the last say about matters concerning both of us. During our ceremony, there was a time for our friends to commit to supporting us in our relationship. When you get married, it makes the relationship more defined for yourselves, but also for your friends. They know. They look at us differently. And they’ve heard us say how we feel about each other.
Ann on being married • The first person I wrote to in an email to say I was married was my ex-boss, who’s also a good friend. I wrote that we were able to legally solidify our 30-year relationship. It was a process where we confirmed our love, and it had a huge spiritual significance to me, not just legal, but spiritual as well because it was a confirmation of this relationship we’ve had for so long.
Kamrin, 33, and Manuel Carver, 44, of Salt Lake City, where they live with their three children
Professions • Kamrin is a training manager for a software company and a wedding officiant. Manuel is an interior designer.
Met • In June 2004, at Club Vortex after that year’s Pride Day festivities.
Married • Dec. 20, 2013, in Salt Lake County; 11-11-11 at 11:11 a.m., New York City; commitment ceremony, March 12, 2010, courtesy of QSaltLake Magazine.
Kamrin on falling in love • I had grown up thinking to be gay meant never being in a relationship that was serious and long lasting. Those were the stereotypes told to me, and I believed them. He is the first and last person I ever dated. In our “Cinderella slipper” first meeting, I fell in love with his selflessness. He had so much love to give that in that short time I knew I was only seeing the tip of the iceberg, and I wanted to see what was under it. I’m still discovering his love. Until meeting him, I had never felt that safe, never felt that confident, in my future. What I saw on that first day is what I have been seeing every day since. I knew if I let this guy go, it would be the biggest mistake of my life.
Manuel on falling in love • I saw him and I thought, “Wow, he is hot!” Then I observed his interactions, behavior and passion for life and I thought, I like this guy. I fell in love with Kamrin’s energy, his smile, the way he moves. He’s a gentleman. It’s easy to talk to him. Kamrin keeps us focused on community, purpose, something beyond ourselves. He is always looking to improve our relationship and to keep our lives interesting. I love the adventures he takes us on and the life he has created for us. He works incredibly hard to give us a better life and provide for us, for which I am grateful. And he’s really good with our children and always looking for better ways to raise them.
Kamrin on being married • We’ve got kids, we’re building a house, we have a life we’ve spent 10 years building together. It’s all mine technically. If anything ever happened to me, it would be absorbed into the legal system and not go to Manuel. It’s a sickening thought. Coming back to Utah from New York, I had a sad feeling in my stomach that what we had just done meant nothing. We wanted it to mean something. After marrying in Utah, I was in tears for days afterward. Every time I would wake up and realize we’re not second-class citizens any more. It’s changed us on a deep, deep level.
Manuel on being married • For me, the marriage is a legal document, a contract. It’s a protection for me and for him, so we can be protected under the law and be treated equally. Was there a change emotionally? No. Legally? Yes. There is a change. Now you are accepted in this community. Now I have a document to tell these people who think we’re not equal that “guess what? We’re equal.” We have a document, and you can’t fight that document.
Kara L. Draper, 21, and Heather L. Solano, 25, of Pleasant Grove
Professions • Kara is a cafeteria worker at an elementary school. Heather is a team leader at a call center.
Met • In November 2011, at a self-actualization seminar. Kara was volunteering, Heather was a participant. Mutual friends had previously suggested to each woman that they meet.
Married • Dec. 31, 2013, in Utah County.
Kara on falling in love • How could I not? What attracted me first is that she is so very, very honest — and her ability to make me laugh. We clicked. No one had anything bad to say about Heather.
Heather on falling in love • I fell in love with her smile. To this day, I can’t help but get warm feelings when she smiles at me. I fell in love with her childlike personality, the way she laughs super hard at kids’ movies. I am able to talk to her and share things I have never been able to tell anybody.
Kara on being married • Coming from an FLDS [a polygamous sect in southern Utah] background, I was taught that the sole purpose of a woman was to get married and pop out babies. I wanted people to realize my relationship with Heather is just as important as relationships are to straight people. She is my world. It’s been really, really fun. I like being introduced as her wife, rather than her girlfriend. It takes it to a new level. The clarification is good.
Heather on being married • I had proposed on Oct. 17. We were planning to get married in California or somewhere else where it is legal in 2014. But we thought it was really cool and jumped at the opportunity to get married in our home state. It’s been somewhat challenging just because currently I’m not even able to have Kara added to my insurance. With some of the legal aspects, we are recognized — we were able to file taxes together — and with some we aren’t recognized. I would like everyone to recognize we are a couple, we’re married, this is my family. It’s been awesome, the things we are looking at and planning and how we are creating our life. Whether [the court ruling] sticks or not, we are married and we married in front of friends and family. That is what really does matter.
Tony, 40, and Paul Redd-Butterfield, 45, of Sandy, where they live with their two children
Professions • Tony is an engineering professor. Paul is a stay-home dad and cooking instructor.
Met • In 1992, at a friends and family night at the Stonewall Center, now the Utah Pride Center. Tony came with his parents; Paul was alone. Each thought the other was someone’s straight friend or relative. Tony: I always say it was love at second sight. Their first date was a week later. They haven’t been apart since.
Married • Dec. 23, 2013, Salt Lake County; Aug. 5, 2008, San Diego; March 1, 2004, San Francisco; commitment ceremony, Aug. 5, 1995, in Utah.
Tony on falling in love • Paul was one of the kindest people I’d ever met. He had a high sense of morality. Our values jelled. I’ve been out since I was 16, and I hadn’t met someone like that before. I was just very lucky to find him. We’ve experienced so much together, from the birth of our kids to building our house and developing our careers. That history — you can’t express it.
Paul on falling in love • He is the kindest and most honest person I know. He is a hard worker and doesn’t have a mean bone in his body. Family is first in everything he does.
Tony on being married • The first time we were married took care of the emotional aspects of being married and solidified our relationship in front of family and friends. This time we married because, without those legal rights, Paul is left very vulnerable if something happened to me. I can rest assured that, if something happens to me, what we own together becomes rightfully his, there are not huge taxes taken out of it, and he can be on my insurance. It was to be able to take care of him the way any stay-at-home parent deserves to be.
Paul on being married • Why get married in Utah? It’s where we’re from, where we’ve chosen to live, where our family is. All the kids in our kids’ classes are complete family units and we feel like we are, too, and feel it is important to be recognized by the state and have our relationship valued by society. It felt like a big sigh of relief to marry in Utah. I think I knew it was too good to be true, that something would happen [to block the marriages], but it just felt like, “Finally!”