Sometimes you get a rare opportunity to witness a bit of history in the making and when that happens, more often than not, you realize that momentous events are often carried out by regular people just trying to do the right thing.
That is what happened in Coalville Monday morning.
It started with a surprise decision by a 10th Circuit Court of Appeals judge late Friday afternoon to overturn Utah's ban on same-sex marriages. The announcement sent county clerks all over the state scurrying to their legal advisors. Summit County Clerk Kent Jones was one of those public servants, caught in the showdown between state and federal lawmakers.
Sunday, though, Jones had made his own decision to follow the law of the land. And he did it with utmost grace. As emails from couples hoping to take advantage of Utah's fragile window of opportunity flooded his inbox, he answered each one. Yes, his office would be open at 8 a.m. and yes, they would be offering marriage certificates to same-sex couples.
Monday, before the sun came up, Jones was joined by his deputy, Ryan Cowley, and a crew of Summit County Council members, armed with smiles and roses. Together Jones, Cowley, Claudia McMullin, Roger Armstrong and Kim Carson welcomed more than 20 couples and helped them fill out paperwork necessary to gain the same legal rights and stature as their heterosexual counterparts.
Among the crowd were couples from Park City, Oakley, the Snyderville Basin, Heber, Roy and Salt Lake City. They were accompanied by their children, moms, dads, brothers, sisters, aunt and uncles. Many had been in monogamous relationships for decades. They were overjoyed and at times overwhelmed by emotion.
Park City Mayor Dana Williams arrived early too and offered to officiate for anyone who wanted to be married right away. In light of the legal uncertainties, many did. The ceremonies took place in the beautifully restored historic council chambers, where Christmas decorations added to the festivities.
In the larger scheme of history, 20 weddings in a rural mountain town may not seem like a watershed event. But in the lives of those whose relationships were finally accepted in the eyes of the law, it was. And for one small community in a state that has discriminated against same-sex relationships for far too long, it was a brave act of independence.
If this holiday, ultimately, is supposed to be about love, acceptance and togetherness, then certainly Summit County has demonstrated the true spirit of Christmas.