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Notable Utahns form gay marriage advocacy group
Education campaign » Former U.S. attorney Tolman co-chairs Utah Unites for Marriage.
First Published Mar 18 2014 09:12 am • Last Updated Mar 18 2014 09:35 pm

Three years ago, Michelle Call was hospitalized 31 weeks into her pregnancy for a condition that almost killed her.

The medical crisis was complicated by the fact that she was having the child with her partner, Kathy Harbin. Had she died, Harbin would have had no legal right to make medical decisions for the baby, use her medical insurance for his care or stay with him in the hospital.

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"She was then, and is now, considered a legal stranger to her own children," Call said.

The couple appeared Tuesday with their two children, 3-year-old Leo and 7-month-old Louis, along with several prominent Utahns to kick off a new advocacy campaign, Utah Unites for Marriage. Call and Harbin wed after a federal judge’s Dec. 20 decision to strike down the state’s gay marriage ban, but their union — and more than 1,000 like it — is in "legal limbo" as the state appeals the decision.

"I want to tell people you can be a Republican, you can be devout in your faith, you can recognize the government should not be a tool to discriminate and still hold your own personal religious and moral beliefs," said Brett Tolman, former U.S. Attorney for the District of Utah.

"Our message is actually a call to leaders in this state to maybe step back and take a look at what is right and what is wrong," he said, "and figure out a way to come down on the side of marriage equality."

Tolman is co-chair of Utah Unites for Marriage, along with Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker, who was traveling and didn’t attend the press conference, and Terry Wood, a longtime television news anchor, reporter and radio personality.

Wood said his son is a successful businessman in California who owns a home in Utah, but because he is gay, his marriage isn’t recognized here.

"No state has the right to discriminate. No state has the right to tell people who they can or can not marry. It’s none of their business," Wood said. "I cried at my son’s wedding ... I want to ensure that other parents can cry the same tears of joy."

The effort will begin with letters to the editor, opinion pieces and an event involving religious communities that support same-sex marriage timed to coincide with April 10 arguments in the marriage ban case, said Brandie Balken, executive director of Equality Utah.


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"As a faith leader, I cannot sit back and watch while many of my brothers and sisters are denied the right to have their unions be recognized under the law," said Rev. Curtis Price of Salt Lake City’s First Baptist Church. "Marriage equality strengthens families led by same-sex parents and is beneficial to children raised in these loving families and households."

The group is also supported by the Utah Pride Center, Human Rights Campaign, Freedom to Marry, the ACLU of Utah, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights. Tuesday’s event was held at the Salt Lake County Government Center, where hundreds of couples wed after the Dec. 20 ruling by U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby.

Before that decision, even advocates felt legalizing same-sex marriage in Utah seemed out of reach, said spokeswoman Natalie Dicou.

"We want to showcase people that are for marriage equality. It’s not just for a certain brand of people," she said. "We want to find those people and tell their stories."

lwhitehurst@sltrib.com

Twitter: @lwhitehurst



Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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