In Salt Lake City, in the shadow of the Mormon Church headquarters, dozens of same-sex couples married in the wake of Friday’s District Court ruling lifting the state’s ban on gay marriage. Included among the couples getting married was a Utah State Senator and his partner. State Senator and Democratic Party Chairman Jim Dabakis married his partner, Stephen Justeson, Friday afternoon.
Friday’s court ruling triggered an immediate reaction, as many couples rushed to take advantage of the change in the law. On Friday, Utah became the 18th state to legalize gay marriage, but the first state that Mitt Romney carried in 2012 to do so. However, what is especially remarkable is that Utah is not just a “red state” but the “reddest state” in the country. Romney won Utah in 2012 by nearly 50 points (73-25 percent). The marriage of Dubakis to his partner in Utah, the most Republican state in the union, underscores how dramatically the country has shifted in the past five years on the issue of same-sex marriage.
In 2008, members of the Mormon church spearheaded the effort to pass California’s Proposition 8, an amendment which eliminated the right for gay couples to marry in that state. Thousands of volunteers from the LDS church canvassed homes in support of the measure and a number of donors contributed heavily to fund the campaign to pass the measure. Since then that law was struck down in the courts and the tide has shifted 180 degrees. Now gay marriage is legal in Utah, where the church that once fought gay marriage so vigorously, is based.
While marriage licenses were being issued and weddings were being officiated in Salt Lake County, other counties in the state were not yet honoring the court’s decision. For example, in the cities of Provo and Lehi, county officials were still denying requests for marriage licenses on Friday. The court’s decision will almost certainly be appealed, but meanwhile many residents of Utah are enjoying the window of opportunity opened by the court’s decision. Same-sex weddings are under way in Utah. That scenario seemed unthinkable five years ago. Yet, now for many couples in the state of Utah, it has become a reality.