Valentine’s Day is marked by more marriage proposals, weddings and flowers bought for that special someone than any other day of the year.
I had the honor to witness and be a part of a powerful event. Marriage Equality of Utah and a representative from MarriageEquality.org New York, along with representatives of the Utah Pride Center and numerous clergy from various faiths, organized a peaceful, loving and educational rally. The rally had been pre-arranged with the Salt Lake County Clerk’s office to receive applications from about two-dozen LGBT couples from 12:30 – 1:30 p.m. The clerks knew they would have to deny the applications because of Utah law which states that only one man and one woman can be legally married.
Music and singing filled the downstairs foyer as the couples were busily filling out their applications, knowing that the event was both a celebration and a powerful demonstration of the impact that marriage inequality has had on Utah families. I had one couple ask me if I would be their wedding officiant for the marriage application. It is always a great honor when couples invite me to celebrate their lives with them, and I told them I would be pleased to conduct the ceremony when they were ready, legal or not.
The rally began with welcoming speeches and, as the time drew near, the couples,excited with anticipation and clergy standing proud in support, lined up and went to the clerk’s office to present the applications. The clergy stood in the back as the first couple went up to present their application. I can say we were all moved to tears, including the clerks, when they had to say no to each loving, committed couple who wanted to be married. Each couple presented the clerks with flowers and gifts as they went up and was told the same thing — in Utah, the law says no. Couples were surprised as the tears rolled down their faces how, even though they knew the answer, how hurt they felt as the injustice of the law touched them.
This law is created by men and women who use their religious beliefs to tell people who they can and should marry. Yet not all religions and not all clergy say that is true. It was evident by the clergy that attended the event.
Laws are supposed to be made to ensure all people are treated equally and that all people are protected and receive equal benefits. Married partners receive numerous benefits by this legal arrangement, benefits denied by consenting couples who cannot have a signed document approved by the state. Religion should not play a part in excluding people when it comes to human rights.
Religious freedom allows me to choose my faith and beliefs. Religious freedom is not freedom when it is used to tell me who I can and cannot love or to whom I can be married.
It is way past time to separate church and state. I am proud of each person who attended this rally. It was a huge step forward to change in the state of Utah.