UPDATE: On January 6, 2014, the United States Supreme Court issued a temporary stay in the December 2013 ruling that established the freedom to marry across the state of Utah. The ruling means that same-sex couples will be unable to marry as the courts consider the state's appeal of the ruling. Same-sex couples, local activists, and advocates across the United States will not rest until all Utahns have the freedom to marry once and for all in their home state. Here is the story of one couple who have vowed to fight.
It was the marriage proposal seen around the world: a man is led down an aisle and urged to stand on a moveable staircase.
Music begins blaring throughout the building: "Somebody misses you when you're away. They want to wake up with you everyday. Somebody wants to hear you say - Ooo, somebody loves you."
A mass of brightly dressed people - the smiling friends and family members of the man on the staircase - enter the aisle and begin dancing to the music, perfectly in sync. More loved ones - the man's best friends from out of town, parents, siblings, and nephews holding up iPads featuring family members from across the country - enter, wave, and take a seat on either side of the staircase.
And then, a man in a suit, tie, and jacket walks into the aisle, sporting an enormous grin and holding a large white poster board.
He holds it up: "If I am good to you, will you be good to me?"
The man on the staircase is ushered down to meet the man in the suit, who whispers to him, "I love you more than anything in this entire world, and I would be honored if you will be by my side for the rest of my life." He gets on one knee, looks up. "Will you marry me?"
Of course, the man on the staircase, Dustin Reeser, said yes to his partner and the love of his life, Spencer Stout.
And, of course, the moving, impressive declaration of love and flash mob happiness went down in the most unexpected of places - the lumber department of a Home Depot in Salt Lake City, Utah - one of the places Spencer and Dustin stopped by on their first date over two years ago.
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It has been three months since Spencer and Dustin blew up the Internet with the proposal that provoked nearly 11 million YouTube views. Three months since the men were invited onto The Ellen DeGeneres Show, where they shared the backstory of the proposal and were presented with an amazing Honeymoon getaway package, wedding gift, and tuxedo SCUBA diving gear. Three months since Spencer and Dustin began planning for their big wedding day.
As they planned for their celebration, Spencer and Dustin knew that they were not able to say "I do" and legally marry where they live, in Utah. Instead, they planned to have to fly out of the state, to California. Then, they were thrilled when a federal district judge in Utah struck down the ban on same-sex couples from marrying, in a historic ruling on December 20, 2013. Read more about the victory HERE.
"On the one hand, we feel so accepted in the community where we live," Dustin said about living in Utah. "But on the other hand, we were being told with these laws that what we feel is not legitimate enough to be recognized by the legal system."
Both men are hopeful that the entire United States will soon come to embrace gay and lesbian people and their love. Over the course of their lives, both men have watched as their families have evolved and grown to understand, and they anticipate that the rest of the country will move forward as well.
Spencer and Dustin were each raised Mormon in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and growing up in the faith has taught both men important lessons.
For Spencer, a native to Salt Lake City, it has shown him the importance of family. As the second oldest of a family of thirteen, Spencer's life has been filled with close family connections and emotional support.
"Even though we've all gone through different challenges in our lives, we have learned to band together, help each other, and love each other through everything," Spencer said. "That has really helped shape who I am now."
Dustin, also raised Mormon, grew up in a small farming community in Minnesota. He and his family were one of two Mormon families in the local area, and they found their faith challenged again and again.
"I learned at a very young age to stand up for what I believe in - and that lesson has been one of the most helpful as I've had to stand up against my family, friends and religion as I came out," Dustin said. "Slowly, as I learned more about who I was and became comfortable in my own skin, my family and friends have come to embrace me. We've learned together that most of those things they hoped I would become when I was 'straight' still apply to my life now - having kids, being married, and having a strong faith in a higher power are all still the things I look forward to each day."
"I've never changed," Dustin added. "Instead, the world is changing to embrace me as I have always, truly been."
They are inspired by the change they're seeing all around them when it comes to Americans growing to support the freedom to marry in record time. They know that just as their family members needed space, time, and exposure before they came to fully accept and understand, the rest of the country needs that continued conversation, too.
"It took me 21 years to come to terms with who I am," Dustin said. "It makes sense that it will take others some time to understand, too."
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To hear Spencer and Dustin tell it, they've already cleared one of the highest hurdles when it comes to a committed partnership: "People told us that if you can get through the first year, that's great - but if you can get through the first remodel, that's how you really know you're ready," Spencer joked, referencing all of the home improvement projects he and Dustin work on together - the projects that take them, again and again, back to Home Depot.
And as they work on these projects and lead their lives - with Dustin managing his own business in interior design and Spencer working in IT and the University of Utah - the couple feels thrilled and blessed that they have the support of their family and friends as they embark on this new chapter of their lives together - marriage.
"It's one of those defining pinnacle moments in life," Spencer said about marriage. "I see my siblings and best friends get married, and it seems to bring them so much happiness to their lives. It's just something I've always wanted: To be a good, committed husband, partner and father."
"To share each other's joys, pains, hopes, dreams - that's what marriage is. It's a right of passage," Dustin said. "It's the next great adventure in a life of incredible, terrifying, and exciting adventures."
Couples like Spencer and Dustin are at the beginning of an amazing journey together - and they understand that marriage is a system designed to support these journeys.
They know that every state across the country should respect their love together, should honor their marriage, should celebrate the deep commitment that they share.
It should be simple, really - as simple as the words on the sign that Spencer held up during his beautiful proposal. The line, a lyric from Australian singer-songwriter Betty Who, could just as easily be a message from Spencer and Dustin to the rest of the country:
"If I am good to you, won't you be good to me? That's how easy this should be."