Plaintiffs: 10th Circuit ruling a victory for all of Utah, United States

Published: Wednesday, June 25 2014 5:10 p.m. MDT

Updated: Wednesday, June 25 2014 9:17 p.m. MDT

Plaintiffs Moudi Sbeity and Derek Kitchen and Plaintiffs Laurie Wood and Kody Partridge hug during a press conference regarding same-sex marriage in Salt Lake City Wednesday, June 25, 2014. The 10th Circuit Court upheld the ruling that same-sex marriage will remain legal in Utah.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

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SALT LAKE CITY — Kate Call, one of six plaintiffs challenging Utah's ban on same-sex marriage, said Wednesday she is proud of her pioneer heritage and "could be no more proud to be a Utahn than right now."

Call's comments came shortly after the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ruling on Kitchen v. Herbert, affirming a lower court decision that Utah's Amendment 3 defining marriage as between a man and a woman violates the due process and equal protection clauses of the U.S. Constitution.

"It’s just a wonderful victory today for the entire United States, for our due process, for our Constitution," Call said. "This is a victory for humanity."

Five of the six plaintiffs joined their attorney Peggy Tomsic to speak with members of the media following the 10th Circuit's decision.

State officials have expressed their intention to appeal the ruling. But Tomsic said that while she would prefer to see the court's decision — and marriage rights for same-sex couples — be allowed to stand, she and the plaintiffs are ready "psychologically, legally, and with our heart and souls" to take their fight to the U.S. Supreme Court.

"We've all heard that the state of Utah wants to end the chaos," Tomsic said. "We’ve heard it in their briefs, we’ve heard it in their press releases, we’ve heard it in their argument. If they want to end this chaos, they need to not appeal this decision."

Utah's Amendment 3 was initially struck down in December by U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby, which led to a 17-day period when legal same-sex marriages were performed while state officials sought a stay of Shelby's ruling and filed an appeal with the 10th Circuit.

Derek Kitchen, a plaintiff in the case, said it has been "incredibly tense and stressful" waiting for a decision from the appellate court. But he said the affirmation of Shelby's ruling, as well as similar rulings by federal judges, is emblematic of the turning tide of public opinion.

"I don’t think the state of Utah can continue to deny same-sex couples their rights for much longer," he said. "I’m proud to have the 10th Circuit Court on our side."

Another plaintiff, Kody Partridge, described the ruling as historic and commented that it fittingly arrived on the eve of the one-year anniversary of the Supreme Court's decision on United States v. Windsor, which struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

"We do know people who were married (after Shelby's ruling) and have medical issues, et cetera, and so we hope the stay doesn’t extend too long and that people will feel like their families, their wives, their husbands, can celebrate this victory with us," she said.

The plaintiffs and their attorneys stood together on a bridge at City Creek Park on Wednesday evening at a rally of more than 300 people celebrating the 10th Circuit ruling and looking optimistically forward.

Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill drew cheers from the crowd as he read from the ruling.

"This is too important guys. This is too great," Gill said enthusiastically. "We are at the crossroads of our politics and their responsibility of political leadership and political concern. We are all citizens, or we are not."

Gill, who is seeking re-election this fall, promised that the county is prepared to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples as soon as it becomes legal in Utah.

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