After more than an hour of legal arguments on the constitutionality of banning same-sex marriage, the scene at the Byron White Court House took on a hopeful tone as plaintiff couples spoke to the media about their involvement in litigation seeking marriage equality in Utah.
Derek Kitchen, the namesake of the case, known as Kitchen v. Herbert, said he stands before the court “humble and proud” that the court has given so much weight to the arguments in the case, then embraced his partner, Moudi Sbeity, and gave him a kiss.
Kody Partridge, who’s also seeking the ability to marry her partner, Laurie Wood, expressed a similar sentiment when addressing reporters.
“We are hopeful that we will see a wonderful decision coming out of this court,” Partridge said.
The two were among the six same-sex plaintiff couples who were present in the courtroom as oral arguments were heard before a three-judge panel of the U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals. Judges appeared split over whether they wanted to uphold the ban, known as Amendment 3, or overturn it as a result of the appeal.
Mark Lawrence, director of the Salt Lake City-based Restore Our Humanity, was also present outside the courthouse and was optimistic the court would rule favorably on the lawsuit he helped initiate.
“I think there’s going to be a 2-1 decision,” Lawrence told the Blade. “I think that was made pretty obvious when we heard the state, and my general impression of the whole thing is I think the state is trying very, very hard to take the humanity out of this case, or trying to make it a thing instead of a case about people, and I just don’t think they can do that.”
Speaking before reporters, Kitchen was reluctant to answer questions about the legal arguments presented during the case, nor would he venture to predict which way the judges would rule, saying, “That’s not my job.”
But he did talk more about the impact of anti-gay marriage laws on couples like him and his partner.
“We are loving and committed individuals who have committed to each other,” Kitchen said.
During the news conference, a reporter said Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes was seen talking to the plaintiffs in the aftermath of the hearing and telling them, “Sorry for putting you through this pain.”
Addressing reporters to emphasize the state’s position that the marriage issue should be resolved not through the courts, but the “democratic process,” Reyes acknowledged he spoke with plaintiffs and said something along those lines.
“I offered them my best wishes,” Reyes said. “I did express to them that I was sorry that there was feeling pain. Again, this is not an easy thing to do when you know that the people you really care about on both sides of the issue will be affected very significantly and very personally. I wanted them to know that it wasn’t personal; I wanted them to appreciate that I recognize their families are as important to them as my family is to me.”
Kate Kendell, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, which is assisting in the case, said in a statement after the arguments she was heartened by what she heard.
“As a Utah native, today was a proud moment as Utah residents poignantly brought their families’ stories to a federal appeals court and made a basic request for equal treatment under our nation’s Constitution,” Kendell said. “We are optimistic the court will agree that excluding same-sex couples from the right to marry causes harm and allowing couples to marry strengthens families and hurts no one. “