PCHS Gay-Straight Alliance donates to litigation against Utah’s Amendment 3
February 12, 2014
On Dec. 20, 2013, 10th Circuit U.S. District Court Judge Robert J. Shelby made a ground-breaking decision to overturn Utah’s Amendment 3, a statewide ban on gay marriage. For 17 days, same-sex couples rushed to courthouses throughout the state to get married, and students in the Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) at Park City High School rejoiced.
Jeremy Billow, PCHS student and the GSA’s public relations and communications officer, said he and fellow GSA members were "overjoyed and incredibly happy." He said it showed them there was hope for the futures of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) youth in Utah as well as the country.
"It showed us that yes, you can dream to go out into the world and be married to the person you love, regardless of their gender, and that even in a conservative state like Utah, that is possible," he said. "It shows a shift in the attitude here in the United States for continued hope for our youth here."
However, two weeks later, the state of Utah issued an appeal and was granted a stay, which prohibited courthouses in Utah from continuing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. However, an organization called Restore Our Humanity is working to overturn the stay.
Restore Our Humanity is a grassroots volunteer organization that helped plaintiffs Derek Kitchen and Moudi Sbiety create a case against Amendment 3 by hiring Salt Lake City law firm Magleby and Greenwood Attorneys at Law.
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Matt Spencer, Restore Our Humanity’s communications director, said the organization is planning to pay for all of the legal fees, so any little bit helps. That is why he found it "completely moving and touching" that the high school’s GSA decided to donate $1,000 to the organization, using funds they raised by holding a bake sale during the Sundance Film Festival.
"[A GSA] is something I didn’t have the honor or privilege of having when I was growing up, so seeing kids that are reaching out like this, that are making an actual impact in their community, that want to create a better future for all of Utah and the nation, I am just awestruck by all of it," Spencer said. "I am here basically just to thank them and say, ‘Keep doing what you’re doing, because you’re amazing.’"
Restore Our Humanity founder Mark Lawrence as well as Amendment 3 case plaintiff Derek Kitchen showed up with Spencer to receive the $1,000 check and to thank them and answer any questions the students had about the Amendment 3 case and its progress.
Lawrence said the organization still has about half a million dollars to raise and probably another $1 million if the case reaches the Supreme Court.
"It is very important for us as Restore Our Humanity to fund this thing for the people who need this litigation, for the people whose lives will be changed and for the people whose lives will be made better," he said.
Lawrence described the case against Amendment 3, beginning with convincing Kitchen and Sbiety to file a federal challenge against Amendment 3 and hiring Magleby and Greenwood almost exactly one year ago. According to Lawrence, they were the only firm that wanted to "step up to the challenge."
On March 25, 2013, six weeks after hiring the firm, Kitchen and Sbiety filed the lawsuit against the State of Utah. Lawrence said their attorneys gathered documentation and submitted it to the 10th Circuit Court for a summary judgment hearing.
The State did the same, and the hearing was held on Dec. 4. Lawrence said he expected a decision from 10th Circuit U.S. District Court Judge Robert J. Shelby to go to trial in September of this year, but on Dec. 20, Shelby announced that there would be no trial and ruled that Amendment 3 was unconstitutional.
"What happened and what has caused a lot of controversy here in Utah is the stay," he said. "The state rushed in to get a stay, which means they are asking the judge to stop anything from happening until the appeal process happens. However, the state was taken off guard and did it all wrong."
Because of the state’s mistakes, people were able to get married for 17 days, so the LGBT community has the state to thank for that, he said. The next step is taking it to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver on April 10, and if they win there, same-sex marriage will be allowed not only in Utah but in Oklahoma, Kansas, New Mexico, Colorado and Wyoming.
Should Governor Gary R. Herbert allow the case to be taken to the Supreme Court of the United States, Lawrence said it is likely they will win and bans on same-sex marriage will be overturned in all states that currently do not allow same-sex marriage.
Continuing LGBT education
Billow said the mission of the GSA is to provide a safe, comfortable environment for the LGBT youth at the high school, so the representatives from Restore Our Humanity did their best to answer any other questions the students had about their experiences as part of the LGBT community. They spoke about coming out to their families and friends and what they’ve done for their community in terms of activism.
"We try to provide public awareness and outreach about LGBT issues in the community, Utah, the country and the world," Billow said. "We try to hold community outreach events and just try to inform people of what the issues are and what we can do on a personal level to combat those things and spread equality and no hate."
Lawrence thanked the students for having them and donating to the litigation against Amendment 3, letting them know that every little bit counts.
"The hero worship goes to you. You have to idea how deeply touched we are that you guys did this," he said. "What we did here, we did for you and your future and for ours as well. The fact that you have stepped up and done this for us just reinforces us and makes us feel better and better about what we are doing."
For more information or to volunteer, visit http://www.RestoreOurHumanity.org or http://www.facebook.com/RestoreOurHumanity . High school students interested in becoming a member of the Gay-Straight Alliance at Park City High School can speak with GSA president Cozy Huggins.
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