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Utah gay-marriage advocates disappointed

But LDS officials say the California court's ruling is 'welcome'

Published: Wednesday, May 27 2009 12:56 a.m. MDT

Supporters of same-sex marriage block Van Ness Avenue following the California Supreme Court's ruling to uphold Proposition 8 Tuesday in San Francisco. The California State Supreme Court voted 6-1 to uphold Proposition 8, which makes it illegal for same-sex couples to marry in the state of California. More than 18,000 same-sex couples that wed before Proposition 8 was voted in will still be legally married. (Justin Sullivan, Getty Images) Supporters of same-sex marriage block Van Ness Avenue following the California Supreme Court's ruling to uphold Proposition 8 Tuesday in San Francisco. The California State Supreme Court voted 6-1 to uphold Proposition 8, which makes it illegal for same-sex couples to marry in the state of California. More than 18,000 same-sex couples that wed before Proposition 8 was voted in will still be legally married. (Justin Sullivan, Getty Images)

Bret Gardner and Alan Taylor married on a June day in California, one of 18,000 same-sex couples to wed there before the passage of Proposition 8 in November.

But the men, who recently moved to Salt Lake City, found little joy in the California Supreme Court's ruling Tuesday, upholding the validity of their marriage while banning future same-sex marriages in the state.

"It's an extremely cruel and hollow victory," Gardner said during a rally outside the Utah State Capitol on Tuesday evening, "and it won't feel the same until all of our gay brothers and sisters are afforded the same rights."

The LDS Church, which encouraged its members to contribute to campaign efforts supporting the proposition, called Tuesday's decision a "welcome" one.

"The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints recognizes the deeply held feelings on both sides, but strongly affirms its belief that marriage should be between a man and a woman," spokesman Scott Trotter said in a statement. "The bedrock institution of marriage between a man and a woman has profound implications for our society. These implications range from what our children are taught in schools to individual and collective freedom of religious expression and practice."

Supporters of same-sex marriage carry signs during a rally at San Francisco City Hall following the California Supreme Court's ruling to uphold Proposition 8 on Tuesday. (Justin Sullivan, Getty Images) Supporters of same-sex marriage carry signs during a rally at San Francisco City Hall following the California Supreme Court's ruling to uphold Proposition 8 on Tuesday. (Justin Sullivan, Getty Images)

The California court's 6-1 ruling triggered rallies and protests across the nation. A victory there would have been a major win for gay-marriage proponents, who have already notched a series of recent victories in Iowa, Vermont and Maine.

"It impacts the national psyche and the view toward marriage equality," said Michael Mueller, chairman of Utahns for Marriage Equality. "It is a crushing blow. But it is also a call for us to rally."

In Utah, protesters waved rainbow flags and held signs that read, "It's not over" and "Equality … isn't it about time?" Messages from protesters ranged from tears of frustration to anger and hope.

"What happened in California was not defeat," said Troy Williams. "I am not scared."

For many, the court's ruling came as no surprise.

Utahns for Marriage Equality protest the California Supreme Court's decision to uphold Proposition 8 at the Capitol on Tuesday in Salt Lake City. (Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News) Utahns for Marriage Equality protest the California Supreme Court's decision to uphold Proposition 8 at the Capitol on Tuesday in Salt Lake City. (Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News)

"My expectations weren't high," said Utah's only openly gay state senator, Scott McCoy, D-Salt Lake.

As a legal matter, "the case was pretty obvious," said Bill Duncan, of the Marriage Law Foundation. "It's not surprising the court upheld it. It's surprising to me that one justice voted the other way. But with the California Supreme Court, anything is possible."

Duncan said the decision helps stem the tide of support for gay marriage.

"There's been a feeling lately that same-sex marriage is an inevitability," he said. "We're starting to see … nothing is inevitable. There's still widespread support for marriage."

Gay-rights leaders called on supporters to continue their fight, to come out and to educate. Between 400 and 500 people attended Tuesday's rally at the Capitol, according to the Utah Highway Patrol.

Utahns for Marriage Equality protest at the Capitol and march on the LDS Church's office building and Temple Square.    (Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News) Utahns for Marriage Equality protest at the Capitol and march on the LDS Church's office building and Temple Square. (Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News)

Earlier in the day, Karen McCreary, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah, said she was disappointed with the California Supreme Court's decision, but heartened somewhat by the justices' choice to protect those who were married before the proposition took effect.

"I'm really glad that the court protected the couples that were already married," McCreary said. "These relationships will show those who don't know same-sex couples that marriage strengthens communities."

McCreary said that in spite of the ruling, she feels that the court of public opinion is clearly migrating toward support of equal rights for same-sex couples, whether through outright marriage, as five states have already recognized, or through civil unions.

"Polls of Americans on this issue are showing widespread support … for equal rights," McCreary said. "I think that the message, even though the court in California ruled against same-sex marriage … is that this issue is not over."

Utahns for Marriage Equality protest at the Capitol and then march on the LDS churches office building and Temple Square Tuesday. (Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News) Utahns for Marriage Equality protest at the Capitol and then march on the LDS churches office building and Temple Square Tuesday. (Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News)

McCoy and others said they expect to see an effort to repeal Proposition 8 on the ballot in November.

"It means that there may be an instance where Utahns on both sides are asked to open up their wallets again to pay for an election in California," McCoy said.

Contributing: Arthur Raymond, Lisa Riley Roche

E-mail: afalk@desnews.com

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