Utah governor flooded with letters on gay marriage

AP News
Posted: Jan 16, 2014 6:33 PM

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — More than 2,700 calls, emails and letters flooded the Utah governor's office in the days and weeks after a surprise ruling legalized gay marriage in the state.

Gov. Gary Herbert, a Republican, has pledged to defend Utah's same-sex marriage ban after a federal judge overturned it Dec. 20.

Gay couples rushed to wed, with more than 1,000 marrying before the U.S. Supreme Court halted the weddings Jan. 6.

Utah has appealed to the Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and the case eventually could work its way back to the Supreme Court.

From the day the marriage ban was struck down through Jan. 15, Herbert received about 1,800 phone calls, letters and emails from those generally supporting of same-sex marriage, according to the governor's office.

Some of the messages did not necessarily endorse same-sex marriage but implored the governor to drop the legal fight.

Another 900 messages were from opponents of gay marriage. Many said they felt their votes had been invalidated and their religious views ignored.

A review of roughly 100 of the letters and phone call transcripts Thursday by The Associated Press showed several people contacted Herbert's office more than once. Other messages came from advocacy groups or apparent social media campaigns to contact the governor en masse.

Herbert's office said comments from people in other states generally are not tracked. Several letters reviewed by the AP came from writers in states such as California, Virginia and Washington.

Many supporters of same-sex marriage mentioned gay friends, siblings or children, or shared their own personal stories.

"Now our civil rights have been stripped away," Karol Darlene Dixon of Tooele wrote in a letter Dec. 10, four days after the high court decision.

Dixon said she had been with her partner for 29 years and asked Herbert to reconsider his stance.

"Make our family one again," she wrote. "I don't know any straight couples who have waited over 29 years to declare their love legally."

Other supporters of gay marriage also spoke of feeling like second-class citizens and wanting equal rights. Some included photocopies of the marriage certificate they obtained or photographs of their partners and children.

"As far as we can tell, no one that we know or see has been harmed by our marriage or by the composition of our family," Sue Geary and Michelle Page, of Salt Lake City, wrote in a Jan. 9 letter.

Messages on both sides ranged from hopeful to angry.

Some supporters told Hebert it was a waste of money to continue the legal fight to defend Utah's gay marriage ban. Others of made comments attacking the Mormon Church, which is based in Utah and opposes same-sex marriage.

Nearly two-thirds of Utah's 2.8 million residents, including Herbert, are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Mormon church was one of the leading forces behind California's short-lived ban on same-sex marriage, Proposition 8.

Among the messages from opponents of same-sex marriage, many quoted from the Bible and urged the governor to continue to defend the law.

"Please hold fast to your values," Ginny Brown, of Roy, wrote in a letter Jan. 11. "I believe you are doing the right thing, but I'm not very optimistic about the Supreme Court."

In a letter postmarked Jan. 13, Russ Larson of Ogden asked Herbert to fight "federal tyrants" over the issue.

"Spend my tax dollars and win," Larson wrote. "Marriage is between a man and a woman."

Others offered to send their own money to help in the fight to block gay marriage, though the governors' office said it doesn't appear anyone actually did.

While gay marriage is an emotionally charged issue, the number of calls is just over half the volume Herbert received last year as he contemplated a gun-rights bill that he later vetoed.

Herbert's office reported last spring that the governor received about 4,400 calls and letters from people asking him to sign or veto the measure.


Follow Michelle Price at https://twitter.com/michellelprice .