By Colleen Mewing
The message came through at 1:53 pm on Friday: “KSL NEWSRADIO: Fed judge rules Utah’s Amendment 3 unconstitutional. Amend 3 denies marriage between 1 woman & 1 man and bans gay marriage.” A little cheer escaped my lips as I sat in my office in disbelief. I immediately called Jolene, my wife of 23 days after our marriage in Vancouver, WA, and told her the news. I asked her to search online to see if she could find out if it was true. In the meantime, the Salt Lake Tribune website issued a release stating that Amendment 3 had been struck down. I had been working with our Corporate office concerning a ‘same sex tax’ they were deducting from my paycheck to cover Jolene on my health insurance. I sent them the Salt Lake Tribune article with a note that it was time for them to quit deducting the same sex tax from my pay. I haven’t been to work since, so do not know what kind of reply I have waiting for me at work.
Jolene called and asked me when I could leave work so we could take part in the celebrations. I told her I could head out at 2:30. Before heading home, I shared the great news with several coworkers. We knew that our marriage in Washington State would now be recognized in Utah. There is no reason for us to get married again; however, we wanted to join others who were headed to the Salt Lake County Clerk’s office to obtain their marriage licenses.
We had no idea what we would encounter once we arrived. As we entered the first floor of the Salt Lake County Building, Utah State Senator, Jim Dabakis had just married his long-time partner, Stephen Justeson. Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker was their wedding officiant! Cheers were ringing out as another marriage had just been completed down an adjacent hallway. People were everywhere…. Smiles were on their faces and tears were in their eyes. We were witnessing marriage equality in our home State of Utah for the very first time on the first day same sex marriages could be performed. It was history in the making!
We headed to the second floor where the County Clerk’s office had a line out the door that went clear down the hall. People were scrambling to get into line; someone was handing out marriage license applications which still listed “Groom” and “Bride” as the registrants. Couples were filling out the paperwork and were scratching out either groom or bride and writing in the respective person they were marrying. People had looks of disbelief and joy on their faces. Jolene and I kept looking at each other, not believing this moment had actually arrived. We would tear up, smile and continue looking through the crowd.
There were several wedding officiants performing weddings on-the-spot for free! Jolene is also a registered wedding officiant and performed one wedding before the night was over.
The Salt Lake County Clerk’s office normally closes at 5 pm on Fridays. At that time, they determined where the end of the line was and said the office would officially close after those people received their paperwork. People still continued to arrive and get in line. It was 7:10 pm by the time those at the demarcation point had paid their $40 processing fee and received their official marriage application! The clerk’s doors were closed and Salt Lake County Sheriff personnel stood their ground, not letting anyone else in.
Those remaining in line were listless as they knew a stay was being worked which would permanently close the door until the appeals process could be finished. Tears flowed freely as hopes were being taken away. State Senator Jim Dabakis addressed the crowd and said he would do everything he could to get the doors opened on Saturday so the issuance of marriage licenses could continue. That, however, did not happen.
The only place open on Saturday was the Weber County Clerk’s office in Ogden, UT. Several friends had contacted Jolene and asked if she would marry them on Saturday, so we headed to the Weber County Clerk’s office. Unlike the Salt Lake office, those in line in Ogden had to wait outside in freezing cold temperatures. Many were there for several hours before it was announced that Weber County would not be handing out any marriage licenses that day. The crowd was stunned. We have to wait until Monday to see what comes next.