Utah: Marriage Equality Plaintiff Derek Kitchen Shares His Personal Story

Moudi Sbeity (R) and Derek Kitchen are plaintiffs in Utah’s freedom to marry case.

By Derek Kitchen
NCLR Guest Columnist

I remember the campaign for Amendment 3—the measure that banned same-sex couples from marrying in Utah—very clearly. I was 15 years old and a freshman in high school in South Jordan, Utah. Throughout the campaign, several of my neighbors—and people I knew as close friends—had signs in their yards supporting the ban.

I never would have imagined that in 10 short years I would gain the support of my family after coming out as gay, meet the man I want to share my life with, and be part of a lawsuit challenging Amendment 3 so that we can marry.

When Moudi and I met in college, we both instantly felt a deep spark. We spent our first years together traveling back and forth each weekend between University of Utah in Salt Lake City, where I went to college, and Utah State University in Logan, where Moudi was a student. We emailed long daily letters to one another during the week, sharing our deepest thoughts and feelings, and longed for the weekends when we could be together.

We are more than best friends, we are soul mates. We support one another in everything, standing beside one another in life’s joys and challenges, nurturing one another’s dreams and hopes, and, more than anything, we long to build a future together as legal spouses.

We both believe that relationships are about emotional and spiritual growth—and being there through thick and thin. My family has embraced him as one of their own, and his family in Lebanon has done the same with me.

Over the last five years, he and I have built a life together and we’ve created a foundation for our future. Everything about our lives is woven into one, but as long as Utah’s marriage ban is in force, we can never be more than legal strangers in our home state.

That is why we joined 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. Since filing the lawsuit, we have been overwhelmed by the flood of support from so many people throughout our community and across the country, including many of our Mormon family and friends.

I am proud of our shared love and commitment to one another, and, even more than that, I am proud to stand up for it. I always imagined marriage would be the cornerstone of my life—as it has been for my own parents and many friends.

Moudi and I have known from the start of our relationship that we wanted to get married, and challenging Utah’s ban on marriage equality was the first step for us to take on our quest to walk down the aisle.

On Valentine’s Day, I took the next step. Standing before a crowd of people, I got down on one knee, and asked Moudi: “Will you marry me?”

He said: “Yes.”

We’re hopeful that one day soon, we’ll be able to stand before our family and friends for our wedding ceremony, and commit our lives together with two simple words: “I do.”

Derek Kitchen and Moudi Sbeity are plaintiffs in Kitchen v Herbert challenging Utah’s ban on marriage equality.