Ashley Lowery, Deseret Newsashley Lowery, Deseret News
Ron Hunt, left, and Todd Bennett, pose for wedding announcement photographs at Exchange Place in Salt Lake City on Thursday.

It may be a narrow window. But that's all one Salt Lake City couple needs.

Todd Bennett, 48, and Ron Hunt, 55, are among couples lining up to tie the knot in California as the political battle brews there over same-sex marriage.

A recent California Supreme Court ruling allowing gay couples to wed could be overruled in November, when voters decide whether to constitutionally bar same-sex marriage. And leaders in the LDS Church recently issued a statement encouraging its members to support the California marriage amendment.

But, Bennett and Hunt say politics and lawsuits were the last thing on their minds when they made plans for a small civil ceremony in September. For them, marriage is simply about love and commitment.

And, even if it's temporary, the California ruling has created an

opportunity for which they've waited years.

"We're not trying to thumb our nose," Bennett said. "This is about us wanting to get married."

The couple has been together for just over 13 years. During that time they have comforted each other through surgeries, job changes and unemployment. It was Bennett who was by Hunt's side during three neck operations.

"We've been supportive of each other, basically, through feast and famine, through good and bad," Hunt says. "He's the one for me, and I'm glad he still chooses me."

Still, their marriage license will be largely symbolic when they return home to Utah, where voters have constitutionally barred same-sex marriage and domestic unions.

"The state of Utah has been very clear on whether or not to recognize same-sex marriage. The answer is no," said Bill Duncan, director of the Marriage Law Foundation, which supports traditional marriage.

While a federal court challenge is possible, Duncan said, it would likely take "changes to the U.S. Supreme Court" for a successful resolution there.

Duncan said California marriages may be more significant for couples from other states, such as New York, where there's no constitutional bar on same-sex marriages and it has yet to be seen exactly how they'll be treated.

For Bennett and Hunt, the idea of having a marriage license is enough for now. They agree with Sen. Scott McCoy, D-Salt Lake, who has also said he is considering a trip to California to marry his partner. Still, McCoy has encouraged gay spouses not to sue Utah, saying on the Senate Democrat blog that "Utah courts are not likely to lead out on marriage equality for Utah."

The couple also isn't too concerned about a recent LDS Church statement that "marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God," and urging members to "do all you can to support the proposed (California) constitutional amendment."

Bennett and Hunt seemed to agree, however, the statement is indicative of the need for the separation of church and state.

"I'm not going to tell people what they should and shouldn't believe," Bennett said. "In a perfect world, no one would try to tell me what I should or shouldn't believe."

When asked why they would go through so much trouble for a legal document that won't stand up in Utah, Hunt replied, "because it means more ... It's a good thing to do, even though it's not recognized in the state of Utah."

It's important enough to the couple that they've tried to marry before. They happened to be in San Francisco in 2004 when the mayor there authorized same-sex marriages. However, the couple was daunted by long lines at City Hall and an inability to gather information about things like residency requirements.

Then, the couple planned a trip to Portland, Ore., to wed, but by the time they got there, same-gender marriages had been halted. And, when the Massachusetts Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage, the couple had discussed traveling there but never made the trip when they learned that only state residents could be married in that state.

"Each time we planned it around another activity," Hunt said. "I'm taking him to a concert for our honeymoon."

Bennett smiled confidently and gently held Hunt's hand as he said, "This time it's going to happen."

Still, both are aware of the reality their license likely won't change things. In the worst-case scenario, it will still be up to a hospital to decide whether or not to allow them to make medical decisions for each other.

They are hopeful the license will help with employers when obtaining domestic-partner benefits. And they plan to use the license as evidence of their relationship when they sign up for Salt Lake's new mutual commitment registry.

They're also hopeful that, eventually, things will change and their marriage will be retroactively recognized in the state they call home.

In the meantime, Hunt said the couple will continue to enjoy their lives together.

"We have a good life," he says. "We have a lot of fun."


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