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Couples celebrate 5 years of legalized same-sex marriage in Utah

Posted at 11:55 PM, Dec 20, 2018
and last updated 2018-12-21 08:34:16-05

SALT LAKE CITY -- Thursday marked the five-year anniversary since same-sex marriage became legal in Utah.

It’s been a half decade since same-sex couples across the state scrambled to secure marriage licenses at county clerk offices, while the Utah Attorney General’s office fought a federal judge’s ruling that deemed Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional.

At the time, many couples said they didn’t know if the ruling would stick and if their marriage would legally last.

Worried a judge would issue a stay on the ruling, hundreds of couples flooded courthouses and exchanged vows right then and there. County building lobbies turned into makeshift marriage venues.

Jon Jensen and Jared Reesor said friends of theirs sent out a text announcing they were getting married.

“When is it? Where is it? Because we got to make travel plans,” recounted Reesor, of his response to the couple. They replied: “Courthouse. Now.”

Reesor and Jensen said they showed up at the Salt Lake City-County building as fast as they could and watched couple after couple get married.

The two men, who had been together around seven years at the time, decided not to get a marriage license Friday because Jensen said they wanted their family to be with them for the event.

Instead they headed up to the Weber County courthouse on Saturday, which was supposed to open specifically for the issuance of same-sex marriage licenses.

However, it stayed closed, and about 1,000 people stood outside in the snow, disappointed.

In an interview that day, Jensen and Reesor said there’d been a lot of ups and downs, but “there’s not much that can be done.”

On Monday December 23, they arrived at the Salt Lake City-County building around 5 a.m. behind 122 other couples, waiting for the doors to open.

“It was just such a fun, fun day,” Jensen recalled, as they looked through photos. The two stood for hours in a line that wove its way down the halls and around the balcony. They said people cheered and passed out coffee and treats.

“Such an amazing outpouring of love,” Jensen said. “It was unbelievable.”

While they stood in line in Salt Lake City, a judge at the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver was deciding whether to issue an emergency stay on the ruling.

“It was frantic in line,” he said. “As we were getting closer, there were people walking up and down [saying], ‘Well, they've gone into recess. The judge is making his decision right now.’”

Should the stay be issued and Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage temporarily upheld, he said people wondered if being in line was still good enough for them to get a license-- or if they needed a license in-hand or even the actual marriage itself to be performed for it to count.

People began pulling out cash, Reesor said, so they could be ready to pay for the marriage license as soon as they got to the counter.

“There were people downstairs performing the ceremonies,” Reeser remembered. “It was crazy.”

Ultimately, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals denied the stay. The couple finally got their marriage license and said they stepped outside to the building’s plaza for a wedding ceremony surrounded by family.

“It was really just beautiful,” Reesor expressed. “The weather cooperated, and we had all that family there. Really couldn't ask for anything better.”

In the five years since that day, Reesor and Jensen have done what many couples do after marriage. They file joint tax returns, and they combined their insurance policies.

The two bought a home in Holladay that they’ve been remodeling, and said they’ve focused on their careers and traveling.

Jensen said it’s been nice to have the benefit of using the terms “husband” and “spouse.”

“It’s been great to look back at that time and how much couples have really started families and buckled down, and really made just normal lives for themselves,” Jensen said. “It’s great to see that.”

The couple said it’s been nothing but a positive experience for them, and they expressed their gratitude for everyone who has been loving and supportive along the way.

“Five years later, nobody's lives have really changed except for those couples who now have a little bit easier time getting along. And, the world doesn't need to be more complicated or hard to navigate,” Jensen said. “It's great to have that love and support, and recognition that we have now.”