Utah: Marriage Equality Plaintiff Laurie Wood Shares Her Personal Story

Kody and Laurie
Kody Partridge (R) and Laurie Wood are plaintiffs in Utah’s freedom to marry case.

By Laurie Wood
NCLR Guest Columnist

We had known of each other for years, but we’d never met. Mutual friends were incredulous that we didn’t know each other because, they told us, we’d be “perfect” for each other. But Laurie had spent those years hiding out in Utah County, teaching high school and eventually moving over to Utah Valley University, successfully navigating my way in the conservative environment.

Kody, meanwhile, was fulfilling her lifetime dream of teaching and had found the perfect match for her infectious enthusiasm and love of young people at Rowland Hall, a small private high school in Salt Lake City, which had embraced her as one of the family.

However, Salt Lake is relatively small. We inevitably met, and after evenings of talking long into the night we saw our friends had been right. Although in many ways we were complete opposites — and age and experience had taught us caution and self-preservation — we both knew we’d found what we’d been looking for.

KodyLaurieDogWithin a few weeks, we were planning our future together. We joke that we handled most of the hard stuff first: we sold two houses, bought and set up a home together, incorporated four cats and a dog into a family, and nursed and lost an ailing mother, all within the first year of our relationship.

Our love and commitment to each other was strengthened that year, confirming that we were right for each other. We took deliberate measures—exchanging rings and drawing up wills and medical directives—to demonstrate our commitment.

Last year, we joined as plaintiffs the lawsuit challenging Utah’s laws barring same-sex couples from marriage. We had prepared ourselves for the long legal process, but couldn’t have planned for the euphoria of Dec, 20 when the court struck down Utah’s discriminatory laws and couples could immediately begin marrying.

Once we heard the astonishingly good news, we rushed—like hundreds of other couples—to the Salt Lake County Building with identification in hand to get our license to marry, knowing we wouldn’t be turned away this time. We had tried once before and politely been refused, with the caveat to save the application because, “You never know.”

And on that freezing Friday afternoon as we again nervously filled out the paperwork, the same clerk who had previously denied our application caught our eye. She beamed a huge smile and said, “I guess you didn’t have to wait so long after all.”

We exchanged vows in front of a minister we had never met, dozens of reporters and camera crews, and hundreds of teary cheering strangers. Amid the jubilant chaos, we looked into each other’s eyes and knew we were exactly where we were meant to be.

We, of course, were making a commitment to love each other, and we knew we were promising to laugh and cry with each other and to help each other be our best selves. We were promising to provide support and comfort for one another regardless of how tough it got.

But more than that, we knew that our marriage, now legal in the eyes of the state of Utah, meant we said yes to all the magnitude and responsibility that marriage demands. We, of all people, now understood the weight of the word “marriage.”

Laurie Wood and Kody Partridge are plaintiffs in Kitchen v Herbert challenging Utah’s ban on marriage equality.

(First published 2.21.2014 in the Salt Lake Tribune.)