The Calm After the Ice Storm
Salt Lake City, UT, 21 December 2013 – In an unprecedented ruling U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby changed one of the most conservative States in the Union forever. The realization that his ruling overturning Utah’s ban on same-sex marriages was changing the course of history was instant for some and delayed for others. One must consider that his swift and unannounced 53-page decision was carefully calculated to catch everyone off guard. Those affected by the ban, some of whom have shared a household for decades, were quick to realize they may have one chance to be a part of this historic shift.
Others in the legislature and courts, accustomed to holding the reins of Utah’s political power, appeared to be caught off guard. They had little time to react and little time to file a motion to stay the ruling. And by the time they had, the damage had already been done.
Dozens of couples had received marriage licenses and quickly found willing officiants mere feet from the doors of the Clerk’s offices to administer the vows of marriage.
Though some members of Utah’s political circles commented publicly that they’d been preparing for this ruling for some time, it seems perhaps they were preparing for a different outcome.
Having witnessed the events unfold at the Salt Lake County Clerk’s office Friday night, and joined in the failed attempts at Davis, Weber, and Salt Lake again this morning, I am filled with pride and respect for my fellow alternative neighbors. As each of the offices announced they would not be issuing licenses these people who’ve endured so much inequality in this Pretty Great State quietly, for the most part, accepted yet another defeat.
Yet in their hearts, as in mine, they are preparing for victory. Though the State of Utah and it’s broken Attorney General’s office, mired in scandal of it’s own, will attempt to stay this ruling they simply cannot prevail for long.
A young couple standing in the line of hundreds in the parking lot of the Weber County offices asked me if the State could overturn the Judge’s ruling. They will try, I told them, but they are fighting a battle they surely cannot win, we hope.
In hindsight, no one could have predictedwhat happened yesterday and today in Utah. County officials all over the state were careening over this icy frontier. Blindsided by Judge Shelby’s ruling, the state was completely unprepared for the fallout, good and bad. Yet heroes arose from the salvo he launched.
Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill quickly took to the front line stating he saw no legal reason for County Clerk Sherrie Swensen to prohibit issuance of marriage certificates to same-sex couples. And Utah State Senator Jim Dabakis and his longtime partner were married by Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker.
But as quickly as the events spun everyone out of control, it appears the State pulled the reins of its minions Saturday morning halting the growing movement in its tracks.
We cannot wait until Monday to watch this battle unfold further. Greg and I will again appear at the Salt Lake County Clerk’s office to apply for our own Utah State marriage license so that we too can be a part of history; just in case it all ends after this first shot heard ’round the world.