The Ottumwa Courier

AP National

December 30, 2013

Gay in Utah: Hostility, acceptance part of life

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah has long been known as a bastion of red-state conservatism with deep roots in the Mormon faith. It's the kind of place that has historically been unwelcoming to gay marriage.

The state is the world headquarters of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which championed California's gay marriage ban that was eventually tossed out in court. The church looms over almost every aspect of life in Utah, where an estimated two-thirds of residents are Mormon.

But, like the rest of America, how gays are received depends on where they live. Some gay couples describe feeling hostility in conservative, heavily Mormon cities such as Provo. The suburban areas that surround Salt Lake City are a mish-mash of family-friendly communities across the political spectrum.

And Salt Lake City is more open to gays than many people outside the state realize.

The city is home to gay bars and coffee shops and a pride parade that attracts 25,000 people. There's a bus that takes gay men and women to Nevada to party. Salt Lake is also the city where hundreds of gay couples rushed to the county clerk's office to obtain marriage licenses and get married in the lobby of a government building, after a judge overturned the state's voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage

As they wait for the courts to sort out the legal challenges to the Dec. 20 ruling, three gay couples describe differing experiences in Utah:

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Cheryl Haws and Shelly Eyre have been lesbian partners for eight years in Provo, about 45 miles southeast of Salt Lake City and arguably the most conservative city in Utah.

They have been the target of outright hostility and insults. Eyre left the Mormon church years ago; Haws was ex-communicated, they said.

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