Guest Post: Marriage Equality in Utah

Mary Danzig is a fiddler/violinist and mom. She performs with her husband Peter in the folk/newgrass duo Otter Creek.

Photo: Tom Smart, AP

My first memory of a wedding ceremony is sitting spellbound in front of a TV while Princess Diana walked down the aisle in her glorious dress with the mile long train.  In contrast, my three daughters’ first memory will include a young woman in her Chuck-a-Rama work shirt waiting in a long line with her newborn baby and partner to obtain a marriage license.

On Friday afternoon hundreds of people dropped what they were doing and rushed to the Salt Lake County Clerk’s office when they learned that Amendment Three (which prohibits same sex marriage) had been overturned.  They wanted to get married.  They didn’t know how long the window of opportunity would be open.  Many had waited years, even decades, to marry.  They weren’t going to waste another moment.

I rushed my own girls out the door.  I threw a damp washcloth at my oldest daughter, instructing her to wash her youngest sister’s face while we drove.  We had a wedding to get to.   As we walked into the county building we heard cheering.  Utah State Senator James Dabakis had just married his partner of 27 years.  Clergy from several denominations stood in the foyer performing weddings for couples.  Each time a couple emerged from the clerk’s office with their marriage license, people cheered.  We saw hundreds of people standing in line to get their licenses.  At 5:00 the county clerk announced that all people in line would have their licenses processed if at all possible, but anyone else joining the line after 5:00 would probably not receive a marriage license.  And yet, people continued to get in line “just in case.”

As I looked at the young woman in her Chuck-a-Rama shirt I felt certain that this was not what she had planned to wear to her dream wedding.  Absent from the event were bouquets, cake, music, and most significantly the majority of this couple’s family and friends.  And yet, it didn’t seem to matter.  The joy was overwhelming.  Everywhere I turned  there were children giddy that their parents were getting married, elderly people thrilled to finally  legally bind themselves together, and young couples starry-eyed and dreamy, eager to begin their lives.

It was a perfect night.  Our friends were married in a beautiful, simple ceremony with their two children looking on.  I choked back tears as I watched these two amazing moms finally be able to make their commitment to each other legal.  My husband Peter and I were given the incredible honor of being their witnesses.

On Saturday, 350 people waited outside in the cold to obtain marriage licenses, only to learn that the Weber County Office had determined it could not open after all.   Sunday night people slept outside the Salt Lake County Offices, hoping they could obtain a marriage license in the morning before the State of Utah could request (and possibly be granted) a stay.  Over the past few days I have thought a lot about my newlywed friends who still don’t know if their marriage will guarantee the non-biological mom the right to adopt the children she has nurtured since the day they were born.

I have felt shame at the contrast in the circumstances around my wedding.  There was never any doubt I could obtain a wedding license to marry Peter.  We selected a summer day for our nuptials when family and friends could join us.  Forever impacted by Princess Diana’s wedding, I agonized over all the details of our wedding day for months.  I certainly didn’t have to sleep on the sidewalk the night before I married my soul mate.  No one thought I was a threat to their family because I wanted to start my own.

And so, Monday morning, Peter, the kids and I headed off to the Salt Lake County building again to witness more friends marry.  We felt like we couldn’t go empty handed.  You don’t do that at a wedding.   And yet, what do you get for hundreds of couples?  Well, we knew they didn’t have time to plan all the details, like the music, so we took our instruments and played all the wedding standards: Pachelbel, Bach, Mouret and more until our arms hurt.  Our girls sang “Morning Has Broken” and never has that song felt more right.

I heard the cheer go up when someone shouted, “The stay has been denied!”  Everyone who stood in the line that wrapped around two floors of the building was going to be able to get married that day.  And yet, no one knows if another court may yet grant a stay.  Or, if the State of Utah might win its appeal.

I know not everyone believes in gay marriage; people are free to have their opinions.  And, religions do not have to marry same sex couples if they do not wish to, although many faiths welcome the opportunity.  As for me, the LGBT community has strengthened my appreciation of marriage and family. I have witnessed that the right to legally commit yourself to the person you love is powerful.  People will drop everything to do it.  They will wear a Chuck-a-Rama shirt if they have to.  They will freeze all night in order to have their relationship formally recognized and honored.   People with such commitment bring something precious to the State of Utah.  They inspire me to cherish my marriage more deeply and to realize how much I take for granted.

I hope as my girls grow up that they will never forget what they have seen over these historic days.  I hope they will remember what a remarkable thing love is, what a precious gift it is to find someone who wants to walk through life hand in hand whatever it may bring.   I hope they will remember that marriage is about dropping everything to be with the person you love, that it sustains you when life is cold and that Chuck-a-Rama shirts don’t really matter when you have your best friend.  But I also hope that my daughters will come to expect a world where all couples are shown the same dignity that their parents were.  I hope someday to live in a state where any loving adult couple can expect they can walk into the County Clerk’s office on any weekday and obtain a marriage license without fear of stays or appeals. Then, I think we will be a state with family values.

You may also like...

29 Responses

  1. marta says:

    thank you.

  2. Todd Ruhter says:

    This is just an awesome statement. It is rational, thoughtful, respectful and honest. I can only wish I could communicate my thoughts on this matter and many others with the eloquence that Ms. Danzig does. I have been blessed as a GLBT person to have so many allies, like Ms. Danzig is in my life and standing up with me and others to give voice to our community and I can only say THANK YOU and may you continue your work to show the best in what we are working to accomplish without rancor and angry words. The world has enough of those, more thoughtful voices are greatly appreciated from those of us who are born with the fervor but not the eloquence. Thank you Mary.

  3. Libby says:

    Mary, I’m thrilled that you would share your story and your light with us. Thank you!

  4. Em says:

    Thank you for sharing. I have been wondering what it feels like in Utah right now and what you’re describing sounds pretty magical.

    I feel like this is one moment in which as Mormons we need to ask ourselves if, in fact, we believe in being subject to magistrates and in obeying, honoring and sustaining the law. Closing offices or refusing to participate in what the law mandates (regardless of how you personally feel about said law) is to my mind in violation of one of the most fundamental tenets of our faith. I like your thoughtful idea of bringing music to make it seem more like a wedding.

  5. This is an extraordinary piece. Just wonderful. I hope it’s read by millions–Mormons and non-Mormons alike, people who perhaps need a reminder of the true meaning of love, marriage, and family. Thank you Mary Danzing. I’m so glad I found your piece via my non-Mormon SLC friend Steve Trimble, and I’m doing my part to spread it as widely as I can. Blessings to you and your family. Oh my heck, you’ve written something that’s masterful.

  6. Cheryl says:

    Thanks Mary, this is a wonderful article and written in such a kind Christian and generous spirit! Love the lessons you are teaching your girls and the methods you use to teach them. I expect they will grow to be a wonderful and kind woman like you.

  7. Sonia Kay says:

    I stand with Phil Robertson.

    • TimG says:

      Phil Who? I’m guessing a local supporter of gay rights? Two more on the side of truth, justice, and the American way! Yay!


      Yes, it’s obvious that there are a lot of people who think that Gay Americans are hardly more than second-class citizens undeserving of any legal protection, and those people have for years been searching for someone THEY can rally around. How pathetic it is that the person they find manufactures duck calls for a living.

    • Lise says:

      Stand wherever you’d like, as long as you’re not standing in the way of other people’s rights.

    • Wendilynn says:

      Phil said that no matter who lives their life differently then he does,no matter how different it is from the tenets of his faith, he has no right to hurt them or be mean to them, only to love them.

  8. George Bakan says:

    Seattle chimes in to this great thread. Washington had marriage equality enacted by a vote, Referendum, about a year ago. The pay back is the immense joy and pleasure that shines from the weddings. NOW, we see Utah, a real surprise from a western politics view, and the same joy pervades. Contgrats. from Washington, WELCOME to the Victory Road. And, this is a great personal report. GB, Seattle Gay News, senior editor. (Also for Utah, your Judge Bradley wrote a decision that sets the standard, the best possible work, will be in law schools classes for a very long time)

  9. alda jones says:

    Thanks again, Mary and Peter. It was wonderful to see you and your beautiful daughters there. Wonderful to see your article as well. Thank you for taking time out of your holiday season to celebrate with us and to witness and document this historic event.

  10. Lise says:

    This is a lovely post. I’m also in a straight marriage, and have felt it so unfair that so many of my friends aren’t able to have what I’ve always been able to take for granted. Fortunately, my current home state of NJ recently got marriage equality, and I’m thrilled that Utah has joined that group. Love is for everyone!

  11. Judith Sandeen says:

    How wonderful that you gave those couples the gift of music! I’m sure that gift will be remembered each time they celebrate an anniversary.

  12. Paul says:

    Great read and chuck-a-Rama FTW!

  13. Trevor says:

    Thanks for reminding me not to take love for granted.

    And how kind of you to bring your musical gifts to help our brothers and sisters celebrate this moment.

  14. Mary,

    I share your hope, that my children will be able to express their love and commitment. What a powerful and beautiful thing.

    Nathan Kennard

  15. Karl Frazier says:

    That was you and your husband playing the music? That was awesome! Thank you!

  16. Lee Anne Walker says:

    This is beautiful, as was the whole happy celebration at the courthouse. It was impossible not to be touched by the joy on peoples’ faces. It was a special Christmas for everyone in Salt Lake.

  17. Kirt Beck says:

    It does my heart good to know that people like you are out there. What a beautiful gift from your family… Also excited that my home state now recognizes my marriage. 🙂

  18. Camille Stipanovich says:

    I am a Utahn by birth now living in Washington state. It truly amazed me to see this happen in Utah in my life time. I appreciate this lovely article and I hope that even if marriage equality is over turned this time, that the door is cracked wide open for change to occur permanently.

  19. Sarah says:

    My partner of 4 years and I were one of the hundreds of couples that were turned away in Weber county and then slept outside Sunday night in Salt Lake. When we obtained our license we chose our ceremony spot near you and your family– we got married to the echoing sounds of Pachelbel. Thank you for your gift. It was perfect. 🙂

  20. EmilyCC says:

    I love this post, and I love the gift of music you gave to these joyful weddings.

  21. Some Thoughts says:

    Here are my thoughts

    It is really crazy to me that so many people look down on Mormons for sticking to their beliefs. Isn’t it a good thing to have values? Isn’t it a good thing to stick to your beliefs? Isn’t a good thing to fight for your beliefs?Mormons believe in God. Mormons believe that the first commandment of God was to multiply and replenish the earth. This is very sacred act. I believe that the most joy that comes into this world is through family. This includes parents and children. I believe that the greatest potential for growth and happiness is through a complete family. God wants us to be happy. True happiness comes through keeping his commandments. God has made it clear that marriage is between a man and a woman. So if you believe in God. Then you fight for traditional marriage. Don’t look down on people who are fighting for their believes. If you believe that gay marriage should be legal then fight for it. If you don’t then fight for your beliefs . My big beef with this is that ONE man back east decided that this is the law for Utah. Nullifying the correct process of things in our country. What gives him the right to do that? That guy has ultimate power. He can do what ever he wants and create what ever law he wants. That makes no sense to me. This guys one believe doesn’t reflect the beliefs of UTAHS majority. Laws are made to benefit the majority.

    There a tons of people out there who want to marry little kids.(people travel to places like India and buy them, marry them or just have intercourse with them)

    There are people out there who want multiple wives or husbands.(Happens in Utah)

    There is even a small number of people who want to marry animals.(this is not uncommon for people to have intercourse with animals)( There are places you can pay for this service)

    In history and in other parts of the world we see this already happening. We also see it being very excepted and history. We see prostitution acceptance age under 10 years old in certain counties. We also see in our western culture some counties legalizing prostitution as low as 14.

    Lets vote how many people feel that those peoples rights are being taken away? No? Why? Do you think it is wrong? Why? Can’t they decide for themselves? Where those people born that way? Is it different? How? ARE WE TAKING AWAY THERE RIGHTS?

    Thanks for the article

  22. danscir52 says:

    Dear Mary, I’m so pleased to call you friend (and my children’s piano teacher) and you and Peter uncommonly loyal and generous advocates. Thank you for your beautiful expression from those days at the county office and your part in them.

    Your reference to an early experience with a wedding sparked my memory–from two generations back–serving as gift bearer at the reception of my piano teacher. She was a very talented woman in her late thirties (who had once made lesbian advances toward my older sister). She suddenly had the chance to be rescued from the stigma of spinsterhood when a guy she had known–now in his early thirties–called ready to tie the knot. Looking back, I’m pretty sure he was gay. He was a professor at BYU and probably under pressure to act out LDS ideals, even if hypocritically.

    Temple wedding, lace gown, a custom house with separate suites on separate floors. LDS Social Services qualified the unhappy couple to adopt two infants, a boy and girl. Within the first decade, they divorced.

    Happy to mirror your simple, eloquent statement: Hello Utah, we’re finding our family values! Love, Dan Christensen

  23. beth farr says:

    Thank you so much mary. I am a mormon but i am also lesbian. I was married to a man for the simple fact that it was pounded into me that a woman was made for a man. My wife and i were one of the hundreds turned away on that saturday. On monday we were one of the first 40 people in line in weber county. My father (also mormon) and my mom were there. My father believes its wrong but he supports me and is happy for me that i am happily married to my wife. Again i thank you so very much for being an ally and i just hope that many others see it as well how happy all these couples are and that we dont harm them in any way.

  24. Michelle Preece says:

    I love this post, it was my daughter in her Chuck a Rama uniform, my family and I were missing, I wish I would have been there for her, now her and her wife have two beautiful sons

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.