Ever since the first same-sex couples married a few weeks ago, everyone in our state has been compelled to think about our values as Utahns.
It’s a unique and exciting time to be here, to see history unfold, and to be a part of restoring freedom and fairness for gay and lesbian Utahns. I’m extremely moved as I see so much love and support for equality in my community, in personal stories I hear shared around the dinner table, and even on social media from people on the other side of the country.
I’ve lived in Utah my entire life, the youngest in a large conservative Mormon family. I grew up knowing certain things to be true: families are forever, love thy neighbor and treat others the way you’d like to be treated. Recently, as we saw the swift promise of marriage for gay and lesbian Utahns through a federal court ruling, the immediate issuing of the first marriage licenses, and the freedom to marry taken away in the blink of an eye, we’re all giving thought to the meaning of marriage in our lives.
My parents married in the late 1970s, and like most committed couples, they married to make public vows of their love and to promise to care for each other for the rest of their lives. But had they met and decided to marry just four years sooner, they would have been denied that basic freedom, and I may never have had the family that I do now.
My parents were one of very few interracial couples living in Provo in 1967, when the Supreme Court deemed anti-miscegenation laws unconstitutional and opened the door for interracial couples to marry.
I still remember them telling my siblings and me how fortunate we were to have our family together. I remember being told to never take it any of it for granted.
Now, I’m at the point in my life where I dream of someday marrying the person that I love. I’m not there yet, but when I do meet the person I want to commit myself to, I have family, friends, faith leaders, and a community that supports me.
When I marry, I want it to be in the state I call home. But because I’m gay, my freedom to marry is a source of political debate. Today, my parents are watching as their son is excluded from the same freedom they were denied decades ago.
Utah is the perfect place to witness the beauty that comes from marriage. Allowing same-sex couples to marry strengthens the core of their relationship. It allows them to build a life together and foster a family. I believe in marriage for all committed couples, and I believe in it for myself. I believe in the good that it offers society, and I respect anyone who accepts the commitment, protections, and responsibility of that institution. I hope Utah will grant me that respect in return.
It’s time to show our public officials – and the rest of the country – what Utah stands for. We must engage our families and neighbors and have conversations about why marriage matters. Utah is the place where we can (and should) set the example for other states to follow.
My hope for 2014 is that all Utahns, regardless of who they are or who they love, have the opportunity to work hard to provide for themselves and the family they build, and that one day soon, every American can share in the joy of the freedom to marry.
Jordan Smith is a lifelong Utahn who resides in Salt Lake City. He is a leadership member of Young Conservatives for the Freedom to Marry.
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