Nearly 300 Utahns rallied on the south lawn of the Utah State Capitol Building to protest the California Supreme Court’s May 26 decision to uphold Proposition 8, the controversial ballot measure which re-banned gay marriage in the state.
The rally was organized by Michael Mueller, chairman of Utahns for Marriage Equality, who opened the two hour-long rally with a speech in which he called marriage the highest right granted by a government that guarantees personal liberty, limited government and hard work.
“I believe by historical accident these values have been put aside and history will look on this day as an accident,” he said.
Mueller then called on several people to address the crowd, who waved signs and rainbow flags throughout the rally. Bountiful Community Church’s Rev. Russell Baker, who said that his church had performed and would continue to perform same-sex marriages, even though Utah and much of the country would not recognize them.
“No one said it would be easy,” he said, “Change, especially changing attitudes is not easy, but it can be done and will be done.”
A number of gay and lesbian couples also spoke, including Martha Amundsen and Lisa Aldman, and Bret Gardner and Allen Taylor — two couples who legally married in California before voters narrowly passed Proposition 8 on Nov. 4.
While Amundsen said she was glad that the California Supreme Court had ruled to let her marriage and those of 18,000 couples wed before Proposition 8, stand, the victory felt hollow to her.
“No group should have their equality put up to a vote,” she said. “This decision has jeopardized every minority group.”
“It’s a cruel and hollow victory and won’t be the same until our gay brothers and sisters will be afforded the same rights,” Gardner agreed.
Brian Horne, who stood before the crowd with his spouse Chris Nelson recounted how he was fired from his job in 2008 for being gay, an act that is completely legal in Utah. Tearfully, he asked legislators why they would not give gay and lesbian couples the chance to be “a little less alone in this world.”
“Why? Why does this even matter? How does the life Chris and I have have any bearing on you?” he asked. “The only thing I love in this world is my husband. It is something pure and sacred, but Proposition 8 aid no, you are not protected. You are not worthy or loved.”
Out lesbian police woman Marcy Taylor and Utahns for Marriage Equality co-chair Nate Bassett also spoke, urging the crowd not to be disheartened. Bassett also urged those gathered to reach out to allies and friends around the state, and reminded them that nearly 70 percent of Utahns (according to a recent survey) know someone who is gay or transgender.
“For whatever reason, the universe is forcing us to unite and educate the population about our love,” he said. “Let it be known we will not stand down.”
KRCL producer and QSaltLake columnist Troy Williams closed the rally with an impassioned speech, urging those gathered to remain united.
“What happened in California was not defeat, alright?” he said. “I’m not scared of the California Supreme Court. There is only one thing this community should be afraid of, and that’s apathy.”
Williams then lead demonstrators on a march from Capitol Hill to main street, skirting by the LDS Church’s office building and the north side of the LDS Temple, where over 3,000 marchers gathered last November to protest Proposition 8’s passage. Demonstrators chanted “What do we want? Equality! When do we want it? Now!” and waved to passing motorists, many of whom demonstrated support by waving back or honking.