By Sally Farrar
As I stood in line in hopes of receiving my Utah State marriage license, I did not feel excited, hopeful, or joyful. In fact, I felt pathetic, foolish, and less than. As I turned to look at the beautiful woman standing next to me, the woman who has been standing by my side for the last 27 years, I felt a sense of overwhelming sadness. She—we—deserved better than this. Better than standing in a line in the freezing cold hoping a door would open both literally and figuratively. Our love, our union, our struggles, our family deserved better than desperately standing in the freezing cold awaiting doors to open at the Weber County Clerk’s Office in Ogden, Utah. We had been up early with the hope of counties opening their doors and allowing us to receive a marriage license. We had driven around for hours from county to county trying to find the one government office that possessed the courage to follow the court order and issue marriage licenses to its gay and lesbian citizens. We now stood in line with hundreds of people with a small glimmer of hope and yet, my heart and soul felt so very heavy.
My thoughts were suddenly jolted as the phone in my pocket began to ring. I looked at the caller ID and answered the phone, “Hi baby.”
“Hi Mom. Ya’ll getting married?”
“Well son, we are in the line waiting.” I didn’t want to say more as the excitement in his voice was so innocent and sweet; yet in my head I felt those doors were never going to open. His voice pulled me back to the phone.
“I’m hungry,” he said. These are two very familiar words, which we hear multiple times on a daily basis. As an 18 year old boy, his mind was focused on only a few needs.
“Ok,” I said. “Are your sister and brother-in-law on their way to the house?”
“Yes,” he answered. “They are on their way.”
“Ok, son. Tell her to pick up something on her way or make yourself a sandwich.”
“Ok mom, love ya.”
“Love you buddy,” I replied. “See ya soon.”
As I placed the phone back in my pocket, an overwhelming sense of disappointment and a familiar despair began to enter my thoughts. Being an attorney and a Mormon, I knew my attempt to gain a marriage license in the State of Utah would be futile. I would once again have to explain to our children that while God loved our family, there are still people here on Earth who do not understand His love and compassion. So often we are asked, “Why do you live in Utah?” That answer is simple: Utah is our home. We have lived in the south, too. I am Mormon while Brenda, my partner of 27 years, is Catholic. We have no spiritual home, as our religions remain firm in their beliefs denying rights to their gay members. The truth is—we love Utah. We love the culture. We love the people. We don’t drink; we don’t smoke, and we are raising kids. We love raising our kids in Utah. We fit in quite nicely except for one small detail—we happen to be two women in love with each other.
My toes are freezing as I stand in this long line. To distract myself from the elements, my thoughts travel back to less than 30 days ago when I received a call from our daughter. “Hey mom.”
“Hey baby girl. How’s your day?”
“Good,” she says. “Bryce and I just got our marriage license!”
“Glad ya’ll finally got your license,” I express. “The wedding is only two days away. Did it take you long to get it?”
“Nope—just walked right in,” she says. “Had to drive all the way to Provo though because the Draper office was closed—but there was no line.”
At this point, there were several hundred people waiting in our line. How ironic that less than 30 days ago we were celebrating the legal marriage of our daughter. My thoughts quickly go back to last month when my partner and I proudly walked our daughter down the aisle to marry. There were close to 400 guests. We walked her to the front of the room, and a Mormon Bishop married her. The ceremony was beautiful.
Once again, I am brought back to the present moment as my phone rings again.
“Hey baby girl.”
“Are ya’ll almost done? We are here at the house to make Christmas cookies like we planned.”
“Well babe,” I say. “This is taking a bit longer. Can you tell your cousins that it will be later in the day before we get back to make cookies?”
“Ok,” she answers, “but hurry. Love you.”
“I love you, too. See ya soon.”
Now my thoughts are a bit frustrated. We had planned to make Christmas cookies and treats with my sisters, nieces, and nephews—all of whom are Mormon (which is irrelevant, but thought you all should know). I am upset that chasing a marriage license has taken away our family time together—time we cannot get back. This is not fair and is wrong in so many ways. There is a rustle in the crowd as the Weber County door opens and cheers erupt. I quickly make my way to the front of the line to hear the announcement. The cheers turn to moans as it is announced the clerk cannot let us in.
Humiliated, I grab Brenda’s hand and say “Let’s go.” On the long drive back home, we discuss the legal significance of Judge Robert Shelby’s ruling and contemplate the behind-the-scenes scenario that must be taking place with the government leaders and of course “the church” leaders, AKA, “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Days Saints.” As silence replaces our words, my mind once again begins to wander. I think about the legal argument the state presented in denying same-sex couples the right to marry. The best interest of children always becomes relevant. The state argued being raised by a father and mother is the optimal situation in producing well-adjusted children.
Who did that study? No one has ever contacted us to be part of a study. No one has evaluated our two straight children—whom, of course, their moms think are amazing. Ok, my biased thoughts aside—our kids—a girl and a boy, should be judged on their own merits. Our straight daughter just married an amazing man and is in her final year of college as a biochemistry major. She is beautiful from the inside out. She is smart, caring, loving, and has a great sense of humor. Our son is kind, smart, funny, and an incredible athlete who has received an offer to play collegiate baseball. They are really good kids based on the standards of society and both of them are straight.
I, on the other hand, was raised by one male and one female; both straight. In fact, my father was a Mormon Bishop, Stake President, and Mission President. Brenda was raised by one male and one female; both straight, who are Catholic. We were raised in the optimal situation according to the state, but both of us turned out gay. So if being gay is “bad”—an abomination, and allowing gay people to marry will destroy marriage and society, then producing gay children must be considered bad and undesirable. Accordingly, our parents failed the state test. If the rationale of the state’s arguments was to be applied to Brenda and me, and recognizing our union produced two well-adjusted straight children, then we should be allowed to marry. Our parents should have been forced to divorce. Certainly producing gay children from a straight marriage is a detriment to society and traditional marriage, right?
Legal marriages should be defined as a union between two loving and committing adults who wish to share legally protected state and federal rights. Legal marriage should remain about legal rights—not religious definitions. The constitution unequivocally protects the right to freedom of religion and yet it is very clear that the separation of church and state is an intricate part in producing a democratic state of the union. While marriage is a spiritual act in religion, it is a legal act in governing. The government must provide all legal rights and protection under the law to all people equally. Religions do now and can continue to deny members rights based upon their beliefs. Religions remain divided on the definition of marriage and treatment of their gay members and that is perfectly within their rights to do so. The government should provide one legal definition of marriage that applies to all citizens equally. It is their duty to do so.
Let’s be honest here. My life has been way more difficult having been gay than my children’s lives have been. I have been faced with trials and obstacles that I never thought possible to overcome. I spent thousands of hours of counsel with church leaders; thousands of hours in prayer and nothing worked—nothing made me straight. I even joined the God Squad and Fellowship of Christian Athletes and got “saved” at my friend’s southern church. I tried everything to become straight to no avail. Alternatively, my children who are a product of a gay relationship are straight and have it much easier than we ever did. So suffice it to say that in this scenario, the best interest of the children was to be raised by a gay couple. Accordingly, Brenda and I should be married as we have produced straight, well-adjusted children.
The result of this rationale is absurd as I hope everyone can see this. While the government, the state, and the courts determine the fate of our access to equal protection and legal rights, please include our children in your studies. Please include all the gay children who were produced by straight religious parents to determine and define legal marriage. Freedom of religion and freedom of speech remain in place to protect the views of those religions and people who consider homosexual acts and people as an abomination. It provides them the rationale to deny my legal right to marry the person I love. I choose to be judged by my God only. I choose to live in a country where I know my leaders will protect my legal rights and provide me equal protection under the laws of this great nation.
My heart is heavy, and I am tired. I can no longer remain silent on this issue. I can no longer stand to hear that children are better off being raised by a man and a woman. The studies undeniably show children who are raised by loving, supportive parents—regardless of their gender or sexual orientation—are well-adjusted children. Our children are proof. Moreover, the fact that I am gay is not a result of my environment as five of the six siblings raised by my parents are straight. I was created from the same DNA and the same God and I am gay. God created me just as He did my brother and sisters. God does not create mistakes, and I am not a mistake. I am not a product of a broken home. I am a product of two amazing, loving parents who believe in God, the Bible, morals and standards, and who raised me to believe the same. They did not fail by producing me.
Brenda and I have now raised two children with those same standards and beliefs. We just had to do it on our own and without the loving support of a religious institution and congregation can provide. We never found a home or felt welcome in our place of worship so we had to teach our children that they are children of God who are loved and are to serve Him and honor Him and our family name. We have never been legally recognized so we had to tell our children that our relationship and our family are valid and real.
I have always known in my heart and head there would come a time when we would find legal recognition and spiritual acceptance. It is time. The time is now. We can wait no more. And, thankfully, we succeeded in exchanging our vows on December 23, just in time for Christmas.