Michael Ferguson and Seth Anderson were at work Friday afternoon when they heard the news.
A federal judge struck down Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage, which few expected, since the judge had said he would rule on the case by January 7.
“We were keeping tabs on what was going on,” Anderson said. “But the ruling yesterday definitely caught us off guard.”
Without a second thought, they hopped in the car and rushed down to the clerks office for a marriage license. When they got stuck at a traffic light on the way there, Ferguson jumped out of the car and ran to the clerks office. “Governor Herbert supports injustice and inequality so we knew that we had a limited time window so we just wanted to get it done immediately,” Ferguson said.
The move paid off.
“We are the first couple in the state of Utah to receive same-sex marriage,” Ferguson said. “Hashtag, bragging rights.”
Anderson live-tweeted the experience, where he received an outpouring of support.
“The people in the office were so kind and so beautiful,” Anderson said. ”All the women were on the verge of tears when they were filling out papers.”
State-wide support for marriage is much rarer.
A February 2012 poll from BYU’s Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy found just 28% of Utah residents supported same-sex marriage, far below the national level of support (55%) according to recent polling.
By 4 p.m. they were posing for photos with their marriage license and a few hours later they were married.
The newlyweds met on Facebook through mutual friends two years ago, and Ferguson proposed to Anderson in July, just days after the Supreme Court’s ruling striking down Defense of Marriage Act.
While the Supreme Court DOMA ruling didn’t inspire the couple’s engagement, it did play a big role in the decision that allowed them to wed. Judge Robert Shelby, the federal judge who struck down Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage, specifically highlighted the case in his ruling.
Shelby wrote that the state “provided no evidence that opposite-sex marriage will be affected in any way by same-sex marriage. In the absence of such evidence, the State’s unsupported fears and speculations are insufficient to justify the State’s refusal to dignify the family relationships of its gay and lesbian citizens.”
Today that dignity is “palapable” for the couple.
While Ferguson and Anderson are basking in wedded bliss, state officials are actively working to stop others from joining them, pushing for an emergency stay.
“I am very disappointed an activist federal judge is attempting to override the will of the people of Utah. I am working with my legal counsel and the acting attorney general to determine the best course to defend traditional marriage within the borders of Utah,” Governor Gary Herbert said in a statement Friday.
Ferguson and Anderson hope he might willing to change his mind on the issue someday.
“Come have have tea with us. Get to know us. Sit down with us,” Ferguson said.
We will wait to see if he takes them up on that offer.