SALT LAKE CITY — Utah native Kate Kendell said her Latter-day Saint mother showed her the importance of civility.
The executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights and a University of Utah law school graduate, she said her mother loved both her church and her daughter.
"She held those two realities effortlessly," she said to those gathered in the Sutherland Moot Courtroom in the S.J. Quinney College of Law building at the University of Utah on Tuesday afternoon.
Kendell was invited to speak by the college’s LGBT-focused student group, OutLaws, sponsors of the presentation. She encouraged those in attendance to be civil to those with whom they disagree:
"Your part of seeing to it that this ends the way we know it's going to sooner rather than later is that you engage them. You have a conversation — no matter how threatening it is."
In response to Kendell's speech and request for civility in the gay marriage debate, Gov. Gary R. Herbert reaffirmed his earlier statements on civility.
"I recognize that this is a highly emotional issue with people of good will on both sides of the debate. I encourage everyone to remain respectful of one another and the legal process," he said in a statement.
There are some opposed to gay marriage who feel civility has not been extended to them.
"Of course the discussion about the nature of marriage should be civil. In that regard, gay and lesbian activists should cease referring to traditional marriage supporters as being bigots and haters simply for believing in the historic understanding of marriage," said Frank Schubert, the National Organization for Marriage's national political director, in response to the speech.
In an interview following the speech, Kendell said she did not have "any qualms with supporting" people whose doctrinal views prohibit religiously sanctioned same-sex marriages. But she and others seek the shared vocabulary and rights that marriage brings and the security of housing and employment rights for same-sex couples, she said.
She told speech attendees that it is only a matter of time before the Supreme Court legalizes same-sex marriage nationwide. She said legal experts in lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights are being strategic in filing suits on the state level; she said there are currently 42 lawsuits in different states, filed in an effort to "create this greater climate of just, of both receptivity and inevitability."
Traditional marriage supporters disagree with Kendell.
"There is nothing inevitable about same-sex marriage. This is an issue that is hotly contested and is going to be debated and discussed for a good long while," Schubert said.
"The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that states have the right to define marriage, and the vast majority of states, including Utah, believe that marriage is the union of one man and one woman," Schubert said.
Herbert on Tuesday reaffirmed his stance on gay marriage in Utah.
"I want all Utahns to understand I am committed to advancing this issue through the judicial system as we work toward a clear and understandable resolution," he said, reiterating a previous statement.
Kendell's appearance came on the same day that the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit against Herbert and the state of Utah seeking recognition for all same-sex marriages completed from Dec. 20 to Jan. 6.
There is currently a stay, issued by the United States Supreme Court, putting a hold on any same-sex marriage in the state. This is pending the resolution of the case to determine whether the state's Amendment 3, defining marriage as between a man and a woman, is constitutional.