Five years ago, Kody and I spent the morning of Dec. 20 being busy — she at Rowland Hall, helping with its food giveaway, and I with a grocery run for my mother. When we met up at home, our phones simultaneously went off with texts, emails and calls.
My brother texted, “Congratulations.” Peggy Tomsic emailed, “We won!” and KSL called saying, “You’re live. Do you have a comment?”
That’s how we learned that U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby had ruled in our favor, finding Utah’s anti-marriage laws unconstitutional. We were getting married!
The next few hours — no, the next few days — remain a blur. Kody made sure that I had my driver’s license (but not that my turtleneck wasn’t front to back) when we showed up at the Salt Lake County building. Lines hadn’t yet begun to form, but by the time we got our license, the building was filled.
The clerk who had told us in March to hold on to our applications because “you never know” congratulated us as we waited anxiously at the counter. Word came that Curtis Price of the First Baptist Church had arrived “in case anyone wanted to get married.” So, with cameras rolling and reporters at the ready, Kody and I looked at each other and promised to love and cherish one another for the rest of our lives. And when we sealed our vows with a kiss, the entire building burst into cheers and applause.
The love and hope that radiated in the building that very cold December evening continued for the next 17 days as thousands of Utah couples and their families gathered in city and county halls all across the state, celebrating joyful and tearful weddings.
On Monday, in Salt Lake City, carolers came to cheer the bundled crowd that wrapped all around the building, Boy Scouts came by with pizza, and District Attorney Sim Gill followed the court proceedings, providing reassuring updates, and worried that everyone would stay safe.
Every newscast, every AP report or photo, and every personal account of that magical season commented on the power of love. Images of happy couples — united and finally able to protect their children and care for their loved ones — dominated the news coverage. Utah was the state where no one believed it could happen. And now, in 2013, Utah was the poster child for love and equality.
When Kody and I signed up to challenge Utah’s marriage laws, we did so willingly, without much hesitation and without concern for our welfare. And rightly so because, as we’ve repeated numerous times, everywhere we went, the good people of Utah greeted us with respect and kindness as the case wove its way through the courts.
Five years later, I’m not so sure I’d be so willing. The world, my small part of it, seems quite different.
In the past couple of years, I’ve seen a coarsening of public discourse; disagreements prove more explosive. One only has to turn on the news or read the paper to witness this lack of civility and the elevation of distrust. The ultimate danger of this climate is that citizens retreat; they, like me, are afraid to put themselves out there, to take a stand or even to brook a conversation.
Today, I’m not so sure that we’re as kind toward one another. I’m not so sure we’re reaching out to others who aren’t the same as us. And I’m not so sure that joy and love dominate the disposition of our state this season.
As Kody and I look back on that glorious season, the two of us have recommitted ourselves to do our part to rekindle that spirit of love and community.
Laurie Wood and Kody Partridge were among the plaintiffs in the Kitchen v. Herbert lawsuit that challenged Utah marriage laws. The 10th District judges agreed with Judge Shelby, and on Oct. 6, 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the case and marriage equality was a reality in Utah. Kody still teaches at Rowland Hall, and Laurie is retired. They are still happily married.