Although they’ve been together for 36 years, Moab couple Thomas Ehmer and Kym Packard did not legally marry until January, after U.S. District Judge Robert J. Shelby struck down Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage in December, 2013.
Ehmer and Packard were among the 1,300 Utah couples who sought to legally tie the knot during a two-week window before the U.S. Supreme Court stayed the ruling, pending appeal before the 10th Circuit Court in Denver.
The appeals court this summer agreed with the federal judge in Utah that the state’s ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional, and that the U.S. Constitution offers the same equal protection and due process rights to same-sex individuals to marry the person of their choice that it gives heterosexual individuals. The court’s ruling, however, was put on hold pending an appeal. The Supreme Court will meet this fall to decide how to handle the issue concerning not only Utah, but other states with same-sex marriage bans, Ehmer said.
Meanwhile, many in Moab are embracing diversity with the fourth annual Moab Pride Festival, Thursday through Saturday, Sept. 25-27.
“Same-sex marriage is now legal in 19 states, plus the District of Columbia,” and events like the Moab Pride Festival helps create acceptance, Ehmer said.
Sallie Hodges, executive director of the nonprofit Moab Pride, an affiliate of the Utah Pride Center in Salt Lake City, sees the fourth annual Moab Pride Festival as “kind of like a beacon” for all of southeastern Utah, she said.
One of the festival goals is to increase visibility of the GLBT (gay-lesbian-bisexual-transgender) community in eastern Utah, Hodges said. The Moab Valley Multicultural Center is assisting with that aim by providing a space on Mondays, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., where people can drop in for information, Hodges said.
The 2014 Moab Pride Festival will take place in the center of town at Swanny City Park, 400 N. 100 West –- a different location than in previous years. The Visibility March will also start at Swanny City Park.
Last year’s festival attracted more than 1,000 people; attendees included supporters from Salt Lake City. Hodges said this year she’s received emails from people in New York and Texas who plan to attend.
Gay Adventure Week, Sept. 22-26, takes place the week before the festival and is a fundraiser for the festival. Organizer Helene Rohr helps individuals to book adventures with local outfitters, with the commission going toward Moab Pride Festival. Activities include rafting, canyoneering, off-road trips, and sky-diving – “whatever Moab has to offer,” Rohr said. “People come and spend money in Moab. Everybody wins.”
Daily get-togethers at Eddie McStiff’s and other local restaurants are planned throughout the week.
“Our goal is to get people to come and make Moab Pride a destination for them,” Rohr said.
Hodges envisions people eventually coming from all over the world to participate in Moab outdoor offerings prior to the Moab Pride Festival, she said.
The festival kicks off Thursday, Sept. 26 with a documentary showing of “I Am Divine” about the late actor-singer-drag queen Harris Glenn Milstead (known as Divine) who starred in many films by independent filmmaker John Waters. The film is a biographical portrait, from his “early days as a misfit youth in Baltimore through his rise to infamy as a cult superstar,” according to the film’s website. The film screening at Star Hall is made possible through a partnership with the Utah Film Center, Hodges said.
On Saturday, Ehmer and Packard will carry the banner leading the Visibility March from Swanny City Park, 400 N. 100 West, past the county building, along Center Street, then returning to Swanny City Park for an afternoon of information-sharing, music, and entertainment.
A kid’s camp and craft-making area, as well as several vendors will also be present at Swanny City Park. Jessica Turquette, owner of The Moab BARKery, a pet supplies store, is one of the vendors returning for a second year.
“The best part about the Pride festival is that it’s in Moab, and in a rural community, which is really amazing,” Turquette said.
Moab Mayor Dave Sakrison will read a proclamation at the Tuesday, Sept. 23 City Council meeting that basically welcomes Moab Pride, and affirms equality and equity for all people. Sakrison said a council member will be present on Saturday, in his stead while he is out of town.
The weekend’s festivities include performances by the Utah band Marinade with Talia Keys, the legendary nationally-touring DJ Dan, Austin-based singer-songwriter Amy Cook and Los Angeles-based comedian Jennie McNulty, who will emcee the entertainment events.
For information about Gay Adventure Week, email: firstname.lastname@example.org. More information can also be found at www.moabpride.org.
Same-sex marriage ban in Utah still in place despite being declared unconstitutional
The best part about the Pride festival is that it’s in Moab, and in a rural community, which is really amazing.
Thursday, Sept. 25
7 p.m. – Documentary showing of “I am Divine” about Harris Glenn Milstead, a.k.a. Divine, an actor-singer-drag queen and friend of independent film director John Waters, Star Hall, 159 E. Center St.
9 p.m. – Music at The Blu Pig, 811 South Main St.
Friday, Sept. 26
5 p.m. – Second annual Moab Drag Hike: wear your weirdest space age clown drag! Meet at La Quinta, 815 S. Main St. at 4:30 p.m.
For more information call Verbena Starhole at 801-369-6659
8:00 p.m. – Orange Party meet and greet at Club Rio, 2 S. 100 West (Orange attire encouraged.) Featuring DJ Loryn from San Francisco and Moab’s BOOM BOOM ROOM.
Saturday, Sept. 27th
11 a.m. – Visibility March at Swanny City Park 400 N. 100 West.
Noon – 5 p.m. Pride Festival at Swanny City Park (New location.) Performances by Talia Keys and Marinade, Amy Cook, Stonefed, comedian Jennie McNulty, Indi Skies and the Bad Haus Kids and DJ Loryn.
9 p.m. – After party at Club Rio featuring Fire Spinners, The Chundra, A Fire Breathing Bus and DJ divaDanielle and the legendary DJ Dan