Same Sex Weddings in Utah a Sign of Changes to Come
While the state of Utah is most well known for the Mormon religion and conservative politics, a different outlook on same sex marriages is beginning to take place. As Utah changes view on gay marriage, same sex couples like Derek Kitchen and Moudie Sbieity are starting to find acceptance and hope from those who once turned away from them.
Fear from Childhood
Back in 2004, Derek Kitchen was a teenage boy still trying to understand his sexual orientation. Being a gay man in Utah was no easy task for him, and when signs started popping up to create a constitutional amendment to ban same sex marriages, Derek felt disheartened and frightened. Unable to come out to his own Mormon family, he began scratching out the “yes” on the Yes to Amendment 3 signs and writing the word “no” instead. Derek laughs at his actions now, but back then he says it was the only way of showing his opposition as he felt he was being personally attacked.
Today, Derek and his partner Moudie are plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the state of Utah. In December of 2013 this suit led a federal judge to overturn Amendment 3. Today, Derek, Moudie, and the other gay and lesbian couples are finding hope in their case as Utah changes view on gay marriage and begins to look toward a future of equality and acceptance. Since the overturning of Amendment 3, over 1,000 lesbian and gay couples have been able to marry in Utah. On April 10, 2014, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals will decide whether gay marriage can be officially legalized in Utah.
Fighting for Equality
While many do not see a same sex wedding as a holy union, same sex couples feel quite differently. Not only do they want to be able to proclaim their love for each other in front of witnesses and their state, same sex couples have been fighting for:
- Visitation rights at hospitals
- Federal tax benefits and joint income tax returns
- Health insurance
- Spousal retirement benefits
- Spousal survivor benefits
While Utah may not legally recognize same sex unions, the strike down of DOMA, the federal defense of marriage act by the Supreme Court in June of 2013, now allows same sex couples to receive many federal benefits. Even if their state of residence does not legally recognize their marriage, they are now eligible to receive federal benefits.
Hope for the Future
While Derek and Moudie anxiously await the outcome of the hearing at the 10th Court Circuit of Appeals, they have hope that their story will inspire others to be brave and fight for equality. This couple, like so many, ask for recognition of their relationship and the opportunity to one day have a family that is given all the rights that any heterosexual family would be awarded in America. As Utah changes view on gay marriage, hope seems to be rising for those recognitions and awards.