From Utah, With Love: One Couple's Fight To Bring Marriage Equality To Their Home State
"We are more than just two guys in a relationship." Update: The couple got engaged on Valentine's Day.
Derek Kitchen and Moudi Sbeity, the lead plaintiff couple in the federal lawsuit challenging Utah’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples, say they long to be legally married in their home state.
“I am proud of my relationship. I am proud to stand up for the life we have built and for our shared love and commitment to one another,” Kitchen told BuzzFeed.
Kitchen and Sbeity, of Salt Lake City, along with two other same-sex couples, filed the legal challenge to Utah’s marriage ban last year.
In December, a federal judge ruled the ban violates the U.S. Constitution and hundreds of couples were able to marry in the state for a brief period, but that decision has since been appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit.
"We have dedicated ourselves to supporting and nurturing one another's dreams, and every day that goes by, we are facing life's joys and challenges together," Kitchen said.
Kitchen and Sbeity have been together over five years, and they've created Laziz, a Middle Eastern spread business. Their hummus, muhammara, and toum spreads can be found in local grocery stores throughout Salt Lake City.
“When Moudi came into my life, my parents were gifted with another son, who they love and embrace. Moudi’s family in Lebanon welcomed me into their family as well,” Kitchen said. The only obstacle standing in their way is their inability to marry.
“We have joined our lives together in every way that we can, but as long as Utah’s marriage ban is in force, we can never be more than legal strangers in our home state,” Kitchen said. “That is why we have joined with other same-sex couples to challenge Utah’s discriminatory marriage ban. No loving couple should be barred from the joys and responsibilities of marriage simply because they are lesbian or gay.”
Kitchen was 15 when Utah voters overwhelmingly voted to enact the marriage ban, Amendment 3, in 2004. He remembers being a freshman in high school and seeing neighbors — even friends — post signs in their yards supporting the ban.
"At the time, it seemed to me that no one in my world supported the freedom to marry or even spoke positively about gay and lesbian people. As a gay teenager on the verge of coming out, it was a lonely and frightening time," he said.
But since then, Kitchen's community has changed and shifted in favor of recognizing relationships like his, he said.
"We have the support from so many in our community, including many of our Mormon friends and family. They want to see us be able to marry, and they want to celebrate with us," Kitchen said. "So much has changed in the years since Amendment 3 passed. We live in a community that not only supports us, but also celebrates our relationship. It's time for the law to acknowledge us as well."