Supreme Court decision heralded by local same sex-couples
June 26, 2015
Friday’s ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court won’t send same-sex couples dashing to the Summit County courthouse as they did in December, 2013. Their unions are already legal in Utah.
But according to Liana Teteberg who lives in Park City, the decision means she and her wife can live anywhere in the country and their relationship will be recognized.
"That is huge, having that freedom wherever you go. That is a legitimacy that we have never had before," she said.
The federal ruling also means that her marriage, is no longer "subject to the whims of the state legislature," she added.
But Teteberg also cautioned that making same-sex marriage legal won’t end discrimination.
"Now let’s get this integrated into society. Having a law is only one step. The next step is becoming part of our fabric."
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For Patrice Martin and her wife Jamie Grundstrom, who were married in Coalville in 2013, the Supreme Court ruling has an added dimension. It means the couple’s 2-year-old daughter will grow up in a world where her moms are legally recognized as her parents wherever she goes.
"It means that, hopefully, she will not experience discrimination, that it will be less about discrimination and more about love," said Martin.
Without the child custody protections conferred by marriage, Martin said, their daughter could potentially have been taken from them.
"It is so incredibly important to have those rights," she said.
Beyond her own family, Martin sees Friday’s watershed decision as a matter of equal rights for all. "I think it is a huge step for citizens throughout the United States, for everyone’s civil rights."
Longtime marriage rights advocate and former Parkite Bruce Palenske admitted he wasn’t sure he would ever see the day when same-sex marriage would become the law of the land. He and his partner Mike Tompkins left Park City a month before same-sex marriage became legal in Utah to be married in Oregon. "We couldn’t wait," he said with a laugh.
On Friday he was thoroughly enjoying the moment. "I am really happy," he said from his home in Salt Lake City where he was busy fielding calls from LGBT friends.
But he also noted the fight for acceptance was far from over. He quoted a friend as saying: "Get married at 9 a.m., get fired at 10 and get thrown out of your home at 11."
"We are protected here in Utah but in other states there aren’t the same laws against discrimination in housing and employment," he said. In January the Utah Legislature added sexual orientation and gender identity to its Antidiscrimination and Fair Housing Act.
But, like the Supreme Court’s split decision, public opinion in Utah is deeply divided on the issue. On Friday, several high-ranking elected officials were quick to announce their displeasure.
Utah Governor Gary R. Herbert characterized the decision as one more example of federal overreach. In a press release he said, in part, "I am disappointed with the decision by the court to usurp state authority and overrule the voice of the people of Utah as demonstrated by legislation with regard to marriage. I am also very concerned with the overwhelming trend to diminish state autonomy."
U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch issued this carefully calibrated statement: "While I oppose discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, I do not support redefining the fundamental nature of marriage as between a man and a woman." He added, "I will do everything in my power to ensure that this decision does not infringe on important concerns such as our fundamental right to the free exercise of religion."
And from the far right, Utah’s Eagle Forum leader Gayle Ruzicka sent out a blistering email excoriating the justices who upheld the same-sex marriage ruling. "Today’s decision from the United States Supreme Court makes this a tragic day in the history of this great nation! Five unelected people in black robes have overturned the decision of more than Tens of Millions of Americans who voted to uphold the true definition of marriage, which is the union of a man and a woman."
In the meantime, it was a quiet day at the Summit County Courthouse, unlike the morning of Dec. 23, 2013, after a judge struck down Utah’s ban on same sex marriage. On that day, 26 same-sex couples lined up in the clerk’s office in Coalville to obtain marriage licenses.
Chief Deputy Clerk Kellie Robinson remembers that busy day well, from the roses being handed out by members of the Summit County Council to the flurry of media attention. "It was a good experience for our office. A majority of them had been together for a lot of years," Robinson said. Only a handful of same-sex couples have been in since, she said.
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