Gay marriage rally in Utah

Supporters of gay marriage fill the rotunda during a rally at the Utah State Capitol. (Steve C. Wilson / Associated Press / January 10, 2014)

Hours after the Obama administration said it would recognize 1,300 same-sex marriages in Utah, a large crowd of gay marriage supporters crowded inside the state Capitol on Friday calling on Republican Gov. Gary Herbert to do the same.

"Let it stand," many said, referring to a Dec. 20 federal district court ruling that Utah's ban on same-sex marriages was unconstitutional. U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby had refused to delay gay marriages while Utah appealed the decision.  

But last week, the U.S. Supreme Court put a halt to same-sex marriages in the state at least until the 10th Circuit Court hears the appeal. Utah announced two days ago that it did not consider the marriages legal.

"I support Judge Shelby's ruling," the petition states. "Utah's ban on same sex marriage is unconstitutional. Governor Herbert, let his ruling stand."

Troy Williams, 43, an organizer, described the rally as "electric."

"The energy was heightened by the announcement that the federal government is recognizing the marriages," Williams told the Los Angeles Times. "It's just so exciting because it reminds us that we, as gay Utahns, are still protected by the Constitution."

The past weeks have been a roller-coaster of events for same-sex couples: weddings, court rulings, the state declaration that their marriage was illegal -- and now an announcement that the federal government will recognize them for federal tax purposes and other federal benefits.

"I was surprised when Gov. Herbert said he would not honor the licenses that were issued because it's technically illegal for him to do so," said Moudi Sbeity, one of the plaintiffs in the Utah court case. "But I expected the federal government would honor the licenses."

Laurie Wood, another plaintiff in the case, said that U.S. Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr.'s announcement that families should not be asked to endure uncertainty regarding their benefits shows the Obama administration sides with equality.

"It only sheds light on Gov. Herbert's mistake in refusing to recognize legal marriages performed in Utah," she said in a Facebook message to the Times. "The Governor said he is protecting Utah families and marriage - but he's not protecting my family or my marriage...our marriage should be recognized."

Holding signs that read "Utah is 4 Love," and "Follow the Golden Rule," rally participants, many who shared photos on social media using the hashtag #letitstand, came prepared to deliver speeches, letters and a stack of signed petitions - with about 58,000 signatures - to the governor.

"Gov. Herbert is working to marginalize, demean and discriminate against the LGBT community ... but we are going to approach everything with love," he said.

One "love letter" came from Ken Kimball-Santana and his partner, Miguel Santana, who were at the rally. They posted their letter on the event's Facebook page.

"Love is inclusionary and is never diminished," the couple wrote in the letter. "To the contrary, the more we give, the more it grows."

Annalisa Millo, 25, a graphic designer from Salt Lake City, arrived  just in time to see the petitions delivered.

"There are few dry eyes in the building today," Millo, a lesbian, told The Times. "Everybody who is in this building is sharing the excitement."

She feared that Shelby's first ruling clearing the way for same-sex marriage would be overturned, but  Holder's announcement offered a bit of hope.

"I didn't think it would happen in my lifetime," she said of the same-sex marriages that did take place. "I never thought Utah and progress belonged in the same sentence together because Utah is one of the least progressive states. It was shocking to say the least."

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Twitter: @saba_h

saba.hamedy@latimes.com