As we await a decision from the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals that will determine whether the citizens of Utah will have the freedom to marry the person they love, I, along with my son, his husband and so many Utahns, remain patient and hopeful that the justices will do the right thing. Those 16 days of marriage equality that followed Judge Shelby’s decision were so joyous for hundreds of Utah families that it’s hard to imagine that happiness being taken away.
Win or lose, this is the time for people of conscience to speak out for all families. Nationwide, support for same-sex marriage is at an all time high – 55 percent. Even Sen. Orrin Hatch says it’s only a matter of time until marriage for all is the law of the land. We all came into this world as equals – there are no exceptions. All people should have the same opportunities, rights and responsibilities as others. There are no second-class citizens in a land of liberty.
My son was born and raised here in Utah. He married his husband five years ago in California. They are both successful business people who have a home in Utah and pay taxes to the state. Yet they are not recognized as a married couple by Utah so they are not afforded any of the rights guaranteed to other married couples. If an unforeseen medical emergency occurred here and one of them was hospitalized, it’s very possible the other could not get basic information, much less participate in critical medical decisions regarding his spouse. How can there be such inconsistency and injustice from state to state? This is not about special rights; it’s about equal rights for all Utahns.
Some in Utah fear marriage for all will infringe on religious freedoms. However, no clergy, church or religious organization will ever be forced to perform a wedding that violates its religious beliefs. The Constitution of the United States guarantees that freedom of religion. The Constitution, according to a 1967 Supreme Court opinion, also says marriage is a fundamental human and civil right. Thus, no governmental body should prohibit civil marriage – the type of marriage that was performed here following Judge Shelby’s ruling.
I was overcome with emotion as I witnessed my son marry the person he loved. As I watched the news on Dec. 20, 2013, the day Judge Shelby issued his ruling, the same sense of elation emerged as I saw many Utahns realize their lifelong dream of marriage. I want all Utah parents to feel that same sense of joy in the wedding of their children. I want all loving couples to experience the special pleasure of marriage. I want every Utahn to be able to marry the person they love.
Let’s finish the journey that began those few days before Christmas. Change isn’t always easy, but it is inevitable. It’s time for Utah to join the 19 states, and the District of Columbia, that currently allow all to marry. Let’s lead this movement of love and show the world, that in Utah, all families are important. Let us stand united to assure everyone in Utah is treated equally under the law.
Terry Wood is a co-chair of Utah Unites for Marriage and a multi-Emmy Award-winning journalist who has anchored the news on KUTV, KSL and KTVX.
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