It was the middle of the afternoon on Friday, Dec. 20th, and Jo and Lindi Barney were getting their family ready for a pajama party. As the women finished dressing their kids in pajamas featuring Olaf the snowman from the animated Disney movie Frozen, they started seeing amazing headlines appear on their Facebook pages: “Federal judge strikes down Utah ban on same-sex marriage.”
Jo and Lindi have lived in Salt Lake City all their lives. And in their four years as a couple, they had repeatedly been told by their home state that their relationship did not merit legal respect. Stunned at the news about the court ruling, Jo called an attorney friend, who advised them that they should head to the courthouse and get married immediately.
“We were all wearing Olaf the Snowman pajamas,” Jo said. “My hair was still wet from a shower, we had no make-up on, and we knew we didn’t have time to find a babysitter.”
But it didn’t matter: they turned to each other, grinned, and made the decision together – “Let’s go!”
With both kids in tow, they raced to the county recorder’s office in Salt Lake City, arriving just before four o’clock, an hour before the office would close for the day. They stood in line with more than 100 other loving same-sex couples, said their vows in front of the same attorney friend (who happened to also be a licensed minister), and signed their marriage license.
At last, they were legally married in the state of Utah.
“We were married in our pajamas while holding our two babies – babies that this state had always said could not be both of ours,” Lindi said, citing laws in Utah that preclude same-sex couples from jointly adopting children. “For the first time, that mountain of inequality in Utah was crumbling.”
Shortly after the ruling, the state of Utah readied for its appeal and on Jan. 6th, officials were granted a stay in the ruling as the appeals court considers the case further.
“We knew that the state would appeal,” Jo said. “But we also know that there are thousands of people who are going to fight for our basic human rights – our family among them. None of us are going to rest until equality is achieved, and ultimately there will come a time when the wall of inequality will crumble for good.”
Jo and Lindi’s marriage license in Utah was a reaffirmation of their marriage license from California, which they received on Oct. 15, 2013. What they wanted, what they needed for their family, was to have that marriage recognized in Utah.
“When we got home from getting our marriage license in California, none of it applied in Utah,” Lindi said. “All of a sudden, our kids weren’t legally both of our kids, medical insurance didn’t have to be offered, last names couldn’t easily be changed. We wanted so many things that people take for granted because they receive them so easily and we had done everything we could to legalize our marriage. But none of it applied where we live.”
When they received their marriage license this October, Jo and Lindi were following through with the legal aspect of their 2010 wedding ceremony, when same-sex couples were still denied the freedom to marry in California.
They stood beside every member of their large families – parents, grandparents, siblings – and declared their love and commitment for each other on the beaches of La Jolla.
Their ceremony included their four-month-old daughter, Kylen. “She so quickly became the light of our life,” Lindi explained. “There is something about this girl that is going to change the world – she is as amazing as they come.”
Last year, in November 2013, Jo and Lindi had their second daughter, Tyce. “We are so happy that we have each other,” Jo said. “We are so grateful to be a family.”
Jo and Lindi received an amazing gift for their family this year in Utah – the power to legally say “I Do” in the state where they grew up, fell in love, and built a family.
On the first day of the freedom to marry in Utah – the afternoon of the historic ruling – they stood in the county recorder’s office with dozens of same-sex couples. And that feeling – the feeling of legal respect in their home state and city – felt amazing.
“These couples weren’t bitter that they were getting married in hallways,” Jo said. “They weren’t angry that their required witnesses were complete strangers in line behind them. They didn’t mind that their wedding day wasn’t all about them, because they were sharing it with hundreds of total strangers. They were all there smiling, hugging each other, crying tears of joy. They were finally being treated as equals and they were enjoying that moment.”