Hundreds gather for equality team send-off

Last night hundreds of people gathered in Library Square in support of the plaintiffs and attorneys in the Kitchen v. Herbert marriage equality case as they prepare for Thursday’s hearing before the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver.

Utah Unites For Marriage, a new coalition of human rights groups, hosted the event with their co-chair, Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker, as the emcee.  Becker praised the plaintiffs for their courage in filing this case.  He recalled December 20, 2013, the day Judge Robert Shelby struck down Utah’s Amendment 3, as one of the most memorable of his political career.  On that day, Mayor Becker was at the Salt Lake County Clerk’s office performing weddings for newly-legal same-sex couples.

Three of the plaintiffs in the suit, Moudi Sbeity, Kate Call, and Kody Partridge, also addressed the crowd.  They shared their stories of love, of commitment, and of pain.  Kate’s wife (recognized in Iowa, not Utah) was unable to attend due to medical issues.  Kate reiterated the importance of marriage and what that security would mean for her and her wife.  She added, “Utah is the perfect place for non-traditional marriage!”

Moudi Sbeity who, with his partner Derek Kitchen, have built a business and a life together in Salt Lake City, explained the importance of having his community and his government recognize that his relationship is as valid as that of any other citizen.  Sbeity immigrated here from Lebanon in 2006.  He and Kitchen own Laziz, a local hummus and spreads producer.

Partridge told the story of other notes she received.  One, with flowers, from her students at Rowland Hall school on December 20 congratulating her and Laurie.  Another, received more recently, was from an anonymous source that read, “Thank you for all the hard work you’ve put into ensuring marriage equality in Utah.”

Mark Lawrence, founder of Restore Our Humanity, expressed confidence in the case.  “We will either win big, or we will win very big,” he shouted to the crowd.  Restore Our Humanity is a grass-roots organization that has been working to raise the money to fund this suit.

Lawrence added that while there are some groups involved, like Equality Utah and the National Center for Lesbian Rights, other national civil rights and LGBT organizations have not been involved in the case.  “This will be your victory,” he told the crowd, as volunteers passed out information about a new fundraising campaign.

As the legal machine moves forward, Utah Unites For Marriage is also launching a new public education campaign, with commercials hitting the airwaves beginning today.  The ad campaign, according to Equality Utah Executive Director Brandie Balken, is being funded by a coalition that was formed during California’s Proposition 8 battle with monies that were donated specifically for the purpose of advertising and public education on this issue.

“That group,” said Balken, “understanding the importance and high-profile nature of this case, chose to invest some of their resources in Utah at this time.”

The hearing begins at 10:00am on Thursday, April 10.  QSalt Lake will continue to report on developments as they occur.


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