SALT LAKE CITY — Local and national same-sex marriage advocates have rallied and launched ad campaigns as a federal appeals court prepares to hear arguments in the Utah case Thursday.
But proponents of traditional marriage have been largely quiet this week. Supporters of the state's Amendment 3 haven't held news conferences or public events to stake out their position.
"We just wanted to do something a little different than the big, large rallies that we've already done and will do again," said Utah Eagle Forum president Gayle Ruzicka.
The conservative group intends to take part in a daylong private workshop Friday to "train" people who support marriage between a man and a woman to deal with the media and express their beliefs in public presentations.
"The rallies are great. We bring the people in. Everybody's excited, and they all go home. We wanted to do something where we brought people in, we trained them and they all went out and took their training to spread the word," Ruzicka said.
Utah Unites for Marriage held a public send-off Monday for the plaintiffs and their lawyers headed to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver for oral arguments Thursday. Derek Kitchen and Moudi Sbeity, Laurie Wood and Kody Partridge, and Karen Archer and Kate Call challenged Utah's ban on same-sex marriage in federal court.
The state is appealing U.S. District Judge Robert J. Shelby's ruling last December that Utah's voter-approved Amendment 3 violates the Constitution.
Utah Unites for Marriage, which formed last month, also kicked off a television ad campaign with Utahns telling personal stories about their support of same-sex marriage.
On Tuesday, Freedom to Marry, an advocacy group based in New York, held a teleconference to talk about the Utah and Oklahoma court cases and launch a TV ad featuring former Republican Sen. Alan Simpson of Wyoming. The 10th Circuit will hear the Oklahoma case April 17.
"Whether you’re gay or lesbian or straight, if you love someone and you want to marry them, marry them," Simpson says in the 30-second spot. "I have had a wonderful married life. Why shouldn’t somebody else have the joy of marriage? Live and let live. It is very simple.”
The ad began airing Tuesday on national cable and network political shows in Washington, D.C., Colorado, Oklahoma and Wyoming.
During the news conference, Freedom to Marry founder Evan Wolfson said part of the group's strategy to get the marriage issue before the U.S. Supreme Court is swaying public perception.
"In order to win in the Supreme Court, which is always the way we've said we're going to win, we have to create the climate for the courts to do the right thing. We have to be making the same strong case in the court of public opinion as our advocates make in the courts of law," Wolfson said.
"It is easier for courts to act when they know they have the winds of public opinion in their sails," he said.
Ruzicka agreed that public opinion plays a role in what the courts decide.
"Does it? I think it does. Should it? No, it shouldn't. But I believe that it does, and I think that's why all of us do what we can in whatever way we can to get the word out there," she said.
For traditional marriage supporters in Utah, that apparently means more person-to-person than public forums.
Mary Summerhays, who heads the traditional marriage advocacy group Celebration of Marriage, said she hasn't publicized its recent events to avoid demonstrators.
Celebration of Marriage hosted well-known traditional marriage advocate Ryan T. Anderson of the Heritage Foundation a week ago for a speech and question-and-answer session. It was open to the public but not publicized.
Supporters of traditional marriage are "terrified" to voice their opinion in public, especially in light of the ouster of Mozilla chief executive officer Brendan Eich, Summerhays said.
Eich stepped down last week after gay rights supporters threatened to boycott the Mozilla Firefox Web browser because he made a $1,000 donation in support of Proposition 8, the California referendum reversing a state court decision mandating same-sex marriage.
"There are strong concerns, but people are definitely hesitant about where they feel safe to express their legitimate concerns," Summerhays said. "It has to be quiet because people don't want to risk the kind of treatment Mr. Eich received."
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