For the first time in my life, I can use the word husband to define the nature and status of my relationship with Michael.
Michael is my husband. We were legally married in Salt Lake City, Utah on Friday, December 20, 2013. Michael proposed to me in July while we were in Japan and since then we have been making wedding plans. We planned (and still plan!) to have a big celebration in Salt Lake, but we did not think that we would actually be legally married in Salt Lake.
Earlier this year our friends Derek and Moudi along with two other couples filed a lawsuit in Utah challenging the legality of Amendment 3, Utah’s version of Prop 8. Thanks to them, the other plaintiffs, and their lawyers, the case went to court and on Friday U.S. District Judge Robert J. Shelby declared Amendment 3 unconstitutional. The day started as any normal Friday: Michael and I woke up, I answered emails, I did a little Christmas shopping, then took the train to my tea shop to work. At 1:43 p.m. our attorney friend called and said that Amendment 3 had been struck down by Judge Shelby and that if we were serious about getting married, to rush to the County Clerk’s office.
After we got the call from our friend, Michael and I looked at each other, stopped everything we were doing and jumped in the car.
In a nutshell this is what happened when we got to the County Clerk’s office.
Michael got out of the car and ran across lanes of traffic to get in line while we were waiting at a red light. We didn’t know how much time we actually had before the state would intervene to put a stop to our right to marry. Time was of the essence and we felt it slipping. I finally parked and ran to the office where the clerks had not even heard the news. Not three minutes after we got there the Salt Lake County District Attorney, Sim Gill, walked in.
“This is it,” I thought. “They are here to stop us and any other couple who comes here today.” He knew why we were there but asked, “Are you here to get married?” to which we answered, “Yes we are.”
Gill pulled some of the clerks aside and told us to “hang tight for about 20 minutes.” Michael and I nervously paced but the electricity in the room was building. There were a handful of people there, some to get passports, a different young straight couple to get their marriage license, and everyone just beamed that we were there to be married. Smiles, cheers, pictures, high fives. My heart raced.
Meanwhile, I kept tweeting each new development.
The line was short, in fact we were second in line after the people who were there for a passport. A woman called us to the counter and we presented her the application and our IDs.
She sighed and in a kind whisper told us, “There is nothing more I want to do than to issue this license, but the state forbids me to.”
“No,” Michael said. “Amendment 3 has been struck down. You can.” I showed her the email of the ruling.
She gasped when she realized we were not there for civil disobedience and that we could be married in Utah. She said, “Wait just one moment. I need to speak to someone.”
Two minutes passed and she came back with a second woman who I believe had just left a meeting with the DA.
“We’ve been told we may proceed,” she told us.
This was Michael’s reaction.
“What’s your name?” I asked her. She had tears in her eyes. “My name is Wany. I am so happy…” she paused and wiped a tear from her eye, “…I am so happy that I can do this for you.”
By this time Bob Henline, a reporter from Q Salt Lake, arrived to cover the developing story. We had texted some friends and they were rushing over to be with us. Michael’s cousin Blake arrived first.
Wany asked who was going to marry us and to be honest, the answer was no one. We didn’t have time to plan for that. Bob stepped up and said he had credentials and could marry us if we needed him to. The situation was that we now had an official marriage license valid for 30 days unless the State put a stay on Judge Shelby’s ruling. We didn’t know if that was moments away from happening so 30 days meant nothing. We had to be married by someone qualified to do so immediately.
“I can do it” Wany said. “Please let me do this for you.”
Michael and I, Blake, and all our new friends from the office moved into an open room where Wany began signing papers.
Then someone came and pulled her away. We waited, uncertain of what was happening.
Minutes later Wany returned and informed us that the DA had given instructions that she could only issue licenses not perform the ceremony. We could feel the cold fingers of the state government reaching in to strangle us so Bob immediately signed papers, Michael and I expressed our love and commitment to each other, we kissed, put our engagement rings back on, and we were married.
Fox 13 News arrived right as we were signing papers as did some other friends. When we walked out of the room we saw other news media eager to talk to us. Then a handful of other couples showed up because by now word was out and the quiet office that we had walked into was growing loud and crowded.
The rest of the day is a blur but seeing pictures now I wish I wore a cuter shirt because I was dressed in my frumpiest work clothes, not expecting anything else except going to work at my tea shop and maybe going out to dinner.
Instead, Michael and I got married. So everyone who continues to use the scare quotes around the word married needs to knock it the hell off. Michael and I are not “married” we are in fact married. Legally. In Utah.