[dropcap]I[/dropcap] remember the campaign for Amendment 3 — the measure that banned same-sex couples from marrying in Utah — very clearly.
I was 15 years old and a freshman in high school in South Jordan, Utah. Several of my neighbors and people I knew as close friends posted signs in their yards supporting the ban.
I never would have imagined then that in 10 years I would have my family’s support after coming out as gay, meet the man I want to share my life with, and be part of a lawsuit challenging Amendment 3 so that we can marry.
When Moudi and I met in college, we both instantly felt a strong spark. We spent our first years together traveling back and forth each weekend between The University of Utah in Salt Lake City, where I was a student, and Utah State University in Logan, which Moudi was attending. We emailed long letters to each other during the school week and longed for the weekends when we could be together.
Five years later, we are more than best friends. We’re soul mates. We support and stand by each other in everything – all of life’s joys and challenges. We nurture each other’s dreams and hopes. And, more than anything, we want to build a future together as legal spouses. For both of us, relationships are about emotional and spiritual growth — and about loyalty, being there through thick and thin. My family has embraced Moudi as one of their own, and his family in Lebanon has done the same with me. Everything about our lives is woven together as a foundation for our shared future.
But as long as Utah’s marriage ban is in force, we can never be more than legal strangers in our home state. That’s why we joined other same-sex couples to challenge Utah’s discriminatory marriage ban. No two people who love each other should be barred from the joys and responsibilities of marriage simply because they’re lesbian or gay.
Since filing the lawsuit, we’ve been overwhelmed by support from so many people throughout our community and across the country, including many of our Mormon family and friends. I’m proud of our shared love and commitment, and even more proud to stand up for it.
I always imagined marriage would be the cornerstone of my life, just as it has been for my own parents and their parents before them. What Moudi and I feel for each other, what we plan for and dream of are much the same as those of the long line of married ancestors who came before us. Our sparks are much like their sparks. Our values and traditions are born largely from theirs. We come from people who know what it means to stand up and fight for freedom. Now is the time for same-sex couples to be treated the same as everyone else.
From that first spark, Moudi and I have known we wanted to get married. Challenging Utah’s ban on marriage equality in the lawsuit filed in March 2013 was our first step toward walking down the aisle. Just last month, on Valentine’s Day and Moudi’s birthday, I took the next step. I got down on one knee and asked: “Will you marry me?” He said yes.
We’re optimistic about our legal case in a country that’s still about freedom and equality – even though at times it needs to be nudged. And we’re hopeful that one day soon, we’ll be able to stand before our family and friends at our wedding ceremony and commit our lives together with two simple words: “I do.”
Derek Kitchen and Moudi Sbeity, along with two other same-sex couples, filed the legal challenge to Utah’s marriage ban last year. Last December, a federal district court ruled that Utah’s marriage ban violates the U.S. Constitution’s guarantees of equal protection and due process of law. That decision is now on appeal before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit and will be heard next month in Denver. Many observers feel the Utah case is the one that could move the U.S. Supreme Court to take up the question of the constitutionality of gay marriage and make it legal across the nation.