Last month, after a federal judge struck down Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage, Michael Ferguson and Seth Anderson were the very first couple to marry. Now that the ruling has been stayed, the state of Utah decided Wednesday that recognition of their marriage, as well as the more than 1,300 other same-sex couples who married while the window was open, is “on hold.” Ferguson and Anderson spoke with ThinkProgress Wednesday afternoon to share their reactions.
Anderson was quick to challenge Gov. Gary Herbert’s (R) decision, demanding, “Why are you so determined to break up our families?” He pointed out that the $2 million set aside to defend the ban could be spent actually helping children throughout the state instead of depriving same-sex parents of legal protections for their families. “I’m still married,” he asserted, referencing his own tweet that “Gov. Herbert will have to pry my marriage license from cold, dead hands.”
The two noted that there is a difference between performing marriages and recognizing them, a distinction not clarified by the Supreme Court’s stay. They have a legal marriage license which, they believe, would likely be recognized in other states where same-sex marriage is legal — and may still be recognized by the federal government. It’s only in their home state that it seems their license is not currently valid. This is why they believe that there need to be federal protections for the LGBT community, because “states can’t be trusted” to treat them fairly.
Ferguson described how some people have challenged their decision to marry, asking them, “How inconvenient is it to file your taxes separately?” This, he explained, is a misunderstanding of what it means to be a second-class citizen, suggesting that the same people might have asked Rosa Parks whether it was inconvenient to sit at the back of the bus. It’s a question of dignity, Anderson added, describing Herbert’s decision as “adding an exclamation point to the fact that they don’t like us.”
Though Anderson and Ferguson are not part of the actual case that will determine the fate of marriage equality in Utah, they are both activists in their own right and promise that they are “not going down without a fight.” In the meantime, however, their plans are not changing. In June, they will hold a full wedding ceremony where they will make vows to each other and celebrate their marriage with friends and family. They also plan to continue helping Restore Our Humanity raise the necessary money to litigate the marriage case through the appeals process.