SALT LAKE CITY — The bride didn’t wear red and the groom didn’t wear blue, but Jill and Curtis Haring couldn’t resist topping their wedding cake with an elephant and donkey.
In the two years since their “opposites attract” wedding, there have been plenty of goodwill debates and only a few flip-flops, even though Jill, 34, is a loyal Republican and Mitt Romney supporter while Curtis, 28, is a lifelong Democrat rallying behind President Barack Obama.
“We have a bipartisan marriage, but we’re making it work,” says Jill. With compromise, respect and patience (traits that she and Curtis note are sadly lacking in Congress), “we’ve turned it into a positive. But when things get a little heated, I just go into the other room with the cat.”
That would be Russkie, a Russian Blue that Curtis likes to joke is a communist. “When the cat came into the household, the political power definitely shifted to the left,” he says. “I suppose we need a Libertarian parakeet to balance things out.”
With the presidential election only a few weeks away, the Harings thought it would be a good time to share the story of their unlikely pairing in Free Lunch over fish tacos for Curtis and tomato bisque for Jill at the Blue Lemon Café near their South Temple apartment.
“We live right next door to Utah’s GOP headquarters,” notes Jill, “and I’m not going to lie. I love that Curtis sees that every day.”
It was 2009 when Jill read something Curtis had written about Utah politics on Facebook (he has a blog called “Blue in Red Zion”) and invited him to a party at her place.
“I thought he was hilarious,” she says.
“I thought she was smart,” he says. “We immediately clicked.”
When they started dating, perhaps nobody was more surprised than Jill’s father, who tuned the television to Fox News’ “Hannity Show” when Curtis came to meet the family.
“I was caught flat-footed, completely unprepared,” admits Curtis, “but he’s since warmed up quite a bit. Early on, though, Jill’s brother went out of his way to prod me. I’d have to say, ‘Hey, come on. It’s Thanksgiving.’”
Like CNN’s famous mismatched couple, James Carville and Mary Matalin, the Harings have learned to give their marriage priority over politics. Even so, “whenever Curtis loses a bet, he has to watch Bill O’Reilly with me,” she says.
Her husband cringes. “And when Jill loses, I’ll subject her to (Stephen) Colbert.”
“Curtis is cuter than James Carville,” adds Jill, “and he now takes in the whole picture on issues, not just the far left. We do have discussions, especially with the election as heated as it is. But we try to avoid certain topics. He knows not to bring up Obamacare.”
“You mean, the Affordable Care Act?” replies Curtis with a grin.
Jill rolls her eyes. “See? There are certain things that we’ll never agree on.”
“That’s why our conversations don’t center around politics,” says Curtis. “Instead, it’s who did the laundry and whose turn is it to empty the cat box. We’ve learned to laugh at the political news. Otherwise, we’d go nuts.”
Curtis, a financial data analyst whose nickname for Jill is “MRW” (My Republican Wife), hopes to someday run for local office on the Democratic ticket. Jill, who works in public relations, says she would cross party lines to vote for him.
“How could I not?” she says. “He is way outnumbered in Utah and I’d feel bad if nobody else in my right-wing family voted for him.”
Some day, when the couple decides to raise a family, “our children will be Democrats,” says Curtis, “and they’ll go to the University of Utah like Jill and I did. They definitely won’t be going to BYU.”
On some issues, he says, there can simply be no compromise.
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