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.
Equality Utah Executive Director Brandie Balken closed the rally with a call to the polls, urging supporters of same-sex marriage to vote for state leaders who will represent them. The crowd ended the rally chanting the message of several speakers, "Love equals love."
Representatives from the Utah Pride Center and Restore Our Humanity, an advocacy group that organized and funded the Kitchen v. Herbert case, called on Utah's leaders to abandon their defense of Amendment 3 in light of both Shelby and the 10th Circuit's rulings.
Restore Our Humanity Director Mark Lawrence said legal recognition of same-sex couples is in line with the values of Utahns, who are known for their kindness and charity.
"Utah has a reputation of being people who are very compassionate and people who are very caring," Lawrence said. "And I think the majority of the population of this state right now is behind us, because they see this is about us. They see this is about our families. They see this is about our children who have been treated unfairly."
Stormy Simon, a representative of Overstock.com whose founder Patrick Byrne is a major contributor to Restore Our Humanity, said the Kitchen v. Herbert case is not a fight about religion or personal beliefs but instead seeks equal treatment for all Utahns.
"This case isn’t about our beliefs as individuals. It is about equality and the ability to love and to fight love is a bad, bad thing," Simon said. "What we should be doing is embracing each individual and what they stand for and the contribution that they make to this great state."
Contributing: McKenzie Romero
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