Crowds cheer victory for gay marriage at Salt Lake City rally
Whenever Troy Williams travels to other states and tells people he is a gay man living in Utah, the response generally is concern and pity.
"'Oooohhh, you must be so brave! You must feel so alone!'" the radio host mimicked, eliciting knowing laughter and cheers from the crowd gathered Monday night on the lawn of Washington Square. "But I stand with one of the bravest LGBT families in America! You pulled off what everyone outside of this state said was impossible!"
Several hundred people gathered outside Salt Lake City Hall in Washington Square on Monday night to celebrate the state's first same-sex marriages, three days after federal Judge Robert J. Shelby struck down Utah's gay marriage ban.
"I feel validated as a human being and a citizen of the state," said Valina Eckley, who carried a sign inked in rainbow colors, "Love = Love."
Gay and straight people alike crowded around the steps of City Hall to listen to music and speakers celebrating the rush of weddings since Friday.
Cliff Rosky, board member of Equality Utah and University of Utah law professor, described the ruling as "the most important victory in the history of the gay rights movement."
"You will be the heroes of the civil rights movement of our era," Rosky said.
Emotions ran high as a minister officiated the wedding of Restore Our Humanity board member Clyde Peck and his partner Stan Trujillo. Four of the six plaintiffs in the lawsuit were introduced to wild applause. Any mention of Shelby also drew enthusiastic cheers.
"What [Shelby] did changed the lives of thousands of people, and it put in harms way no one. He has injured no one," said Mark Lawrence, director of Restore Our Humanity, which coordinated the event. "Apparently an 'activist judge' is a judge who understands ... the Constitution applies to all of us."
Emcee Matt Spencer asked the crowd to keep their celebrations positive.
"Let's not belittle our opposition," he said. "Let's approach them with love."
As the band The Hardy Brothers played the crowd away, Spencer bid them to "Go! Get married! Marry the person you love!"