What Marriage Equality Means in a Red State Obsessed With Marriage and Family

Joanna and Lindi Barney were getting ready to go to a family Christmas party when they saw on Facebook that a federal judge had ruled Utah’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples unconstitutional. They were wearing shirts from the movie Frozen, their three-year-old daughter was in her pajamas, and their five-week-old daughter was asleep, but a friend who is an attorney told them the judge could issue a stay at any time, so they should go immediately.

“We just drove down,” Joanna Barney said. “We didn’t have our makeup on. We just kind of went as we were.”

They arrived at the Salt Lake County building in time to be one of 124 couples married Friday, a county record. The next day, hundreds lined up at the Weber County building hoping to receive marriage licenses, after hearing it would open on a Saturday. In the end, though, they were told they would have to wait until Monday.

Utahns with same-sex partners want to get married — not much different than the rest of the state’s population.

Utah is a state with a culture that values marriage, family and childrearing — thanks in no small part to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, headquartered in Salt Lake City. It has the biggest families, the most households headed by married couples, the youngest ages for first marriage, the highest birth rates and the most families where at least one parent stays home with young children in the United States, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

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