On Friday, Michael Ferguson and Seth Anderson of Salt Lake City became the first gay couple in Utah history to get a marriage license. They spoke with Religion Dispatches Saturday morning.
RD: You were the first gay couple in Utah to get a marriage license!
MF: We are the first gay couple in the state of Deseret to get a marriage license!
RD: What are you feeling?
MF: I’ve been on cloud nine for twenty hours. I’ve never felt this way before. For people who say marriage is just a piece of paper, they’ve never been denied basic rights and dignities of civil society.
RD: Tell me how it happened.
MF: Seth and I were at work when an attorney friend texted us to tell us that Judge Shelby had declared Utah Constitutional Amendment 3 unconstitutional. I was in disbelief. But we hopped in the car and drove to the county clerk’s. The light was too slow, I literally jumped out of the car and ran across lanes of traffic to get into the office. At first, the clerks thought we were there to do civil disobedience. She said, “The state of Utah does not recognize same sex couples.” I told her, “Haven’t you heard the good news?” She called her supervisor, and they called in the district attorney. And after a meeting, they came out and told Seth and I that we could get a license. That’s when I started bawling.
RD: You are Mormon.
MF: I am a member of the LDS Church.
RD: How does that impact the way you experience this historic moment?
MF: My upbringing taught me pride in being part of a “peculiar people.” A synonym for peculiar is queer. I was theologized into a queer spirituality.
RD: Spiritually, given the importance of marriage in a Mormon worldview, what does it mean to be able to marry the person you love?
MF: It means that the path towards godhood is opened. Marriage is the institution best suited for the purification of your most supernal instincts. It is a place for learning lessons of love, tenderness, forgiveness, compassion. Go down the Sermon on the Mount and tell me which one of those beatific qualities is not fostered in a marriage.
RD: Who would have thought this would happen so soon in Utah?
MF: I have felt God working in this. We are told that love is going to come like a thief in the night, and it did. Any anger or bitterness I’ve accumulated from living as a gay man in Utah, when we got married yesterday, it disappeared. A weight has been lifted from my heart.
RD: But we know there are legal challenges ahead. Monday will be a busy day.
MF: Davis and Utah County had been turning down same sex couples on Friday, but there is a civil liability suit that is ready to be filed on Monday to address their refusal to provide access, so county clerks of Davis and Utah counties have been told to open their doors at 11 a.m. today (Saturday).
RD: What does this moment mean in the context of Mormon history?
MF: My husband Seth has been saying that he feels strongly that his polygamous great grandparents would be so proud of him if they could be here. We are so proud to be pioneering in the tradition they helped build.