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(Steve Griffin | The Salt Lake Tribune) Supporters join Utah Unites for Marriage at City Creek Park in Salt Lake City, Utah Wednesday, June 25, 2014, to celebrate the historic decision in Kitchen v. Herbert and stepping-stone toward the freedom to marry.
Utah same-sex marriage ruling brings joy, disappointment
Reaction » Appeals court ruling upholds right of same-sex couples to get married.
First Published Jun 26 2014 01:01 am • Last Updated Jun 26 2014 07:25 am

The wedding of Utahns Kate Call and Karen Archer three years ago was an austere affair, held in an Iowa courthouse with strangers for witnesses because their family and friends could not afford to make the trip.

On Wednesday, an appeals court ruling gave them hope that other gay men and women will be able to legally marry in Utah soon. A 2-1 decision by the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said same-sex couples have the same right as opposite-sex couples to marry.

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"I am so happy," said Call, one of the plaintiffs in the case leading to the ruling by the Denver-based appeals court. "I am so proud to have been part of this process."

Call — speaking on behalf of herself and Archer, who could not attend a Wednesday news conference because of illness — said she was "rolling in joy" over the ruling, which she described as "a victory for humanity." 

The other plaintiffs in the case — Derek Kitchen and Moudi Sbeity, who are engaged, and Laurie Wood and Kody Partridge, who were wed in December during a 17-day window when same-sex couples could legally marry in Utah — also described themselves as proud to be part of a historic decision.

Kitchen predicted that the Utah ban on same-sex marriage will not survive much longer. 

"It feels wonderful to be one of the many, many same-sex couples across the country that are being respected and are offered dignity by the court system," he said.

Partridge, who was crying tears of joy, said the decision makes clear that civil same-sex marriages do not impinge on religious rights.

"It’s a big day," she said.

At a rally in City Creek Park on Wednesday night, hundreds of people, waving rainbow flags and hoisting signs with slogans like "Love Always Wins" and "June 25th 2014, Victory, LOVE = LOVE," came out to support the court’s ruling.

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Romy and Michelle Berrett-Muir, the second couple to get married in Utah last year, got to the park an hour before the rally was scheduled to begin.

"It’s a celebration," Michelle, 44, said of the rally. "It’s nice to be able to get together with a group of people who believe what you believe."

When the Utah marriage window closed in January, Michelle and Romy, 47, lost the legal recognition afforded to married couples. The two said they are hopeful the Supreme Court will ultimately force Utah to recognize their marriage.

The evening’s lineup of speakers included former Utah U.S. Attorney Brett Tolman, who now serves as co-chairman of Utah Unites for Marriage, the group that organized the rally.

"Marriage equality is a fundamental human right," Tolman told the crowd. 

"This is not a religious issue. This is not a political issue," Tolman said. "This is a legal and a moral issue, and that’s why the courts are getting it right."

Throngs of supporters cheered when Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill, a longtime supporter of same-sex marriage, stepped forward to the podium. 

"We are at the crossroads of our politics," Gill said. "We are all citizens, or we are not. We are all protected by and can seek shelter under the umbrella of the Constitution, or we cannot." 

Many conservatives in Utah were disheartened by the ruling, but they have not given up in their fight to keep marriage between a man and a woman.

The Sutherland Institute, a conservative think tank, promised to help gather a legal team to defend the state’s gay marriage ban.

"Any appeal at the U.S. Supreme Court is the main event and may decide the future of marriage for decades," according to a statement from Sutherland. "Defenders of marriage must be prepared. It’s disappointing to have a few federal judges decide that they can unilaterally override the decision of Utah voters to preserve marriage as society’s way of preserving children’s opportunity to be reared by a mother and father."

Gov. Gary Herbert also issued a statement saying he was disappointed with Wednesday’s decision.

"I believe states have the right to determine their laws regarding marriage," he said. 

Sen. Orrin Hatch, who made headlines in May by saying that it was almost a certainty that gay marriage will become legal, said he was not surprised by the decision but was disappointed.

"I disagree with the court’s reasoning and hope the Supreme Court ultimately adheres to the original understanding of the Constitution and allows each state to define marriage for itself," he said.

Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, said Utahns have made clear their wishes on the subject and those wishes should not be superseded by a judge. 

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