Utah Pride Festival kicks off as decision on same-sex marriage nears

Posted at 4:55 PM, Jun 06, 2014

SALT LAKE CITY -- Legally married same-sex couples will march through downtown this weekend, leading the annual gay pride parade.

"We got married! A whole bunch of people got married, and that's worth celebrating!" exclaimed Laurie Wood, a plaintiff in the lawsuit that challenged Utah's ban on same-sex marriage and was overturned.

Wood and her wife, Kody Patridge, alongside the other plaintiffs in the Amendment 3 case, will be the grand marshals of Sunday's gay pride parade. Other married same-sex couples have been invited to walk alongside them.

The ongoing court battles surrounding marriage equality will be top of mind at the Utah Pride Festival, which kicks off Friday night at the Salt Lake City-County Building.

"We're celebrating what we have achieved and what we can achieve," said John Netto, the chairman of the board of the Utah Pride Center.

The Utah Pride Center, which hosts the event, anticipates more than 30,000 people at the festival throughout the weekend for concerts, rallies and other events celebrating the state's gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community.

As they set up for the festival on Friday, staffers asked reporters if any news had come from the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which is deciding the state's appeal of Amendment 3, as well as a judge's order that would force Utah to recognize more than 1,200 same-sex marriages performed after the ban was struck down last year.

Backers of the lawsuits are optimistic.

"Next year at Pride, we will be celebrating and we will be celebrating anniversaries," said Mark Lawrence of the group "Restore Our Humanity."

On Friday, the ACLU asked the 10th Circuit Court to overrule Utah and force the state to recognize same-sex marriages. The Utah Attorney General's Office had no comment on the filing.

Amendment 3 plaintiffs Derek Kitchen and Moudi Sbeity urged the state to drop their fight.

"There were thousands of couples that were granted legal marriages and they ought to be recognized," Kitchen said. "I believe the actions of the attorney general and Governor Herbert are really hurting a number of families while not helping anybody."

Despite the political overtones this year, Pride Festival organizers were preparing for a big party.

Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker was also planning his own party. The mayor is throwing a private wedding reception for the 35 or so couples he married the day Amendment 3 was overturned.

"We never had a chance to do that," Becker told FOX 13. "We were moving quickly, couple by couple through the ceremonies and it will be fun to be able to get everyone together and celebrate."

The Salt Lake City Mayor's Office was asking the couples Becker to reach out to them to ensure they get an invite. The mayor even has a gift for the couples: T-shirts mocking the obnoxious red vest he was sporting when he performed the marriages. Calls came from all over the country not about what he was doing -- but what he was wearing.

A T-shirt being given to the couples SLC Mayor Ralph Becker married after Amendment 3 was overturned.

A T-shirt being given to the couples SLC Mayor Ralph Becker married after Amendment 3 was overturned.

"I was getting contacts from people all over the country who saw the ceremonies on national TV," he laughed. "They were asking me, 'What was going on? Why was I dressed like that?'"

(The mayor ended up auctioning off the vest to benefit the gay-rights group Equality Utah.)

Click here for details and a schedule for the Utah Pride Festival.