Tuesday, December 24, 2013

An Early Christmas Gift

"So, it's not like a gay couple is going to be able to rush out and get married tomorrow," I ask attorney Peggy Tomsic, really as an aside, at the end of our interview at 3PM on Friday.  Tomsic, who argued for marriage equality in front of Judge Robert Shelby,  sits up in her chair, adjusts her reading glasses, and with some urgency, makes a dramatic correction, "they could go out and get married right now!" she peers at me.  "Wait, what?" I respond, and at that moment, I realize, history is unfurling in front of us all, and I am just now understanding the implications, and the early Christmas gift getting ready to be delivered to a large portion of Utah's population.
Peggy Tomsic

I knew that Judge Robert Shelby's ruling that Utah's ban on gay marriage was unconstitutional was big, but I assumed, wrongly of course, that there must have been a stay in place until the state's inevitable years long appeals of the Shelby's proclamation was settled.  There was not.

Shelby has ruled that banning gay couples from marrying as Utah voters had done overwhelmingly in 2004, violated those citizens due process, and consequently is a violation of the U.S. Constitution.

Thus began a frenetic, electric, buzzy, and most importantly, monumental day in the news.

The Salt Lake County Clerk's office is one of a handful of a few that decides they will begin issuing marriage licenses.  The clerk's office is bulging within the hour.  Impromptu weddings are being conducted in the halls, and back offices.  For those couples it was absolute, unexpected jubilation.

For those who support the idea of traditional marriage, judge Shelby's ruling was equally unexpected, but evoked a wholly different emotion.
Judge Robert Shelby

"So, attending any weddings anytime soon?" I joke with Gayle Ruzicka, the head of the ultra-conservative Eagle Forum as the photographer quickly adjusts his focal length on the camera in preparation of our interview, "oh yeah," she laughs on her porch, adorned with a pair of fanciful snowmen and, as you might imagine, a complete manger scene.  "Can you believe it?!" she joshes, "I didn't even get an invitation to Jim's wedding!"  Ruzicka is talking about State Senator Jim Dabakis, the openly gay lawmaker, who was among the first to be married in the wake of the marriage equality ruling, and he  did so very publicly on 2News live at 5 PM.

Gayle Ruzicka, Eagle Forum
Ruzicka, is much reviled and conversely, beloved by many in Utah for her unabashed and often curt criticism of anything that falls slightly to the left of her ardently conservative views.  Despite her prickly persona, and pronounced politics, in conversation she always allows for some humor.

When the camera gears up, Ruzicka assumes the position, and begins to breath fire, using words like "incompetent," to describe the Utah Attorney General, and "disgusting," to characterize, Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker, proceeding over wedding in Salt Lake County.

Ruzicka finds herself talking about a very different Utah, a Utah that she and fellow opponents of gay marriage, ironically helped to create.

The campaign to ban gay marriage was frenzied 9 years ago, with pro-traditional marriage groups working long hours, knocking on countless doors, and sending out thousands of fliers in the mail.  They worked hard, and their work payed off for them, the Amendment passed overwhelmingly in a referendum by 66 percent of the vote.

Had the ban never existed though, Peggy Tomsic would not have had anything to challenge, and Judge Shelby would have had nothing to overturn.  Ruzicka and others it appears, made all the slapdash wedding spilling into the halls of the Salt Lake County building on 2100 South, possible.

As we pack up our gear, and leave Ruzicka's Alpine, Utah home, I turn and toss a parting quip, "Don't forget to pick up some wedding gifts this weekend," She guffaws, "Yeah right!", and waves us on cheerily, unaware that in many ways she actually helped wrap the gift of marriage equality for gay couples, just days before Christmas.



















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