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McEntee: Utah girl wishes for a happier Valentine's Day for her 2 moms

Published February 14, 2013 8:09 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated.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.

Last year, Abigail Hasting-Tharp brought me a valentine.

This year, she'll be part of a Valentine's Day demonstration, of sorts, when her moms go to the Salt Lake County Clerk's Office to ask for a civil marriage license they know they won't get.

Abigail's moms, Jamila Tharp and Michelle Hasting, were married in Canada in 2006 and in California in 2008, when same-sex marriage was briefly legal.

At age 10, Abigail, a fourth-grader at the McGillis School in Salt Lake City, already is an old hand at activism in pursuit of marriage equality. When she was 4, she led a march across the Golden Gate Bridge.

This time, she'll be part of a Valentine's Day event in which her moms and other couples will ask for licenses as choirs sing love songs in an atrium, bedecked in red, heart-shaped balloons, at the Salt Lake County Government Center.

"I guess why I'm doing this is I think it's just sad that my moms are recognized as different than anyone else," Abigail said Wednesday. "And I don't want to be the person who sits at home in front of the TV and waits for someone else to do something. I want to do it myself."

She notes that, while there are scores of rights and protections for married straight couples, none would apply to her mothers.

"If something were to happen to one of my moms — knock on wood — they wouldn't be able to have the same protections and stuff like that," Abigail said. "They wouldn't be recognized as a family, which can be tremendously bad for a family."

The Hasting-Tharp family includes Jamila, Michelle, Abigail and her brothers, Kaiden and Alexander. In California, that wouldn't raise any eyebrows. But, in Utah, same-sex marriage is illegal because voters in 2004 amended the Utah Constitution to define marriage as between only a man and a woman.

Nationally, the legality of 1996 Defense of Marriage Act will be argued in the U.S. Supreme Court next month, and a ruling is expected by June. (DOMA denies federal recognition of same-sex marriages and allows states to do the same even when such unions were legally approved in other states.)

The U.S. military has abandoned "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," and just this week outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced that many privileges once limited to those with so-called traditional marriages will be available to same-sex couples.

DOMA is an impediment Abigail would like to see removed.

"I'm just really hoping that someday," she said, "the law will change, DOMA will go away and my family will be equal."

I still have that valentine Abigail gave me last year, and I took another look at it Wednesday.

"Please take a stand on the side of love," she'd written. "Family is family. Love is love."

One day, I believe, Abigail's wish will come true.

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