The day Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage was overturned and hundreds of gay and lesbian couples rushed to say "I do," a man in Virginia slipped $5 into an envelope.
He addressed it to those who made it possible for Utah’s same-sex couples to marry, like he hoped to some day.
The check arrived on Christmas. With it, the man had included a note.
It wasn’t much, he wrote. But it was all he could afford.
"I thought it was really cute," said Mark Lawrence, who, along with his organization, Restore Our Humanity, has been widely credited with jump-starting the Kitchen v. Herbert lawsuit. "He was on disability and didn’t have much, but he wanted so badly to be a part of this."
It got Lawrence thinking.
"Why should we be looking to give this victory to big organizations when we could be giving it to little people, way below the radar, who believe in our cause?"
In a radical restructuring of his organization’s fundraising efforts, Lawrence decided to appeal to individuals by asking for small, manageable donations rather than focusing on soliciting big checks from even bigger businesses, corporations and national gay-rights powerhouses.
"This lawsuit, this fight, this whole thing is about people," Lawrence said. "We don’t follow the usual path. If we did, we wouldn’t be here."
Tallying the costs » If Utah wins in its effort to defend a voter-approved ban on same-sex unions, the victory would — literally — belong to everyone in the state.
According to the attorney general’s office, the state has so far spent nearly $300,000 on its outside counsel in the case. The attorneys’ fees were capped at a negotiated rate and will not exceed $300,000 during the lawsuit’s appeal to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court.
Attorney general spokeswoman Missy Larsen said the state had, after its arguments before the appeals court, hit its cap with lead attorney Gene C. Schaerr and assisting counsel Monte N. Stewart. Assisting lawyer John C. Bursch had not yet capped out, but was nearing his limit fast.
That means Utah will spend $200,000 on Schaerr, and $50,000 apiece for Stewart and Bursch.
If the case makes its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, the attorneys would be extended at the same rate — instituting another cap of $300,000.
All told, the state has agreed to spend no more than $600,000.
The plaintiffs’ attorney costs, Lawrence said, is likely to exceed the state’s bill. Some estimate it may cost well into the millions of dollars.
But, the hope is, the couples who are fighting the lawsuit — Derek Kitchen and Moudi Sbeity, Kody Partridge and Laurie Wood, Kate Call and Karen Archer — won’t have to pay a penny.
That was part of the deal.
"When we asked them to do this, to put their lives out there and fight this law," Lawrence said, "we told them we would take care of the rest."
—Next Page >
Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.