Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

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April 7, 2014

Face of gay marriage in Utah an unlikely pair

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Derek Kitchen was a teenager still coming to grips with his sexual orientation when yard signs began popping up throughout his suburban Salt Lake City neighborhood in 2004 supporting an amendment to ban same-sex marriage.

Kitchen felt angry but feared he would be shunned if he spoke out to his Mormon family and classmates. Instead, he grabbed a marker and went around the neighborhood crossing out the "yes" on the "Yes on Amendment 3" signs and scribbling in "no."

"It was my only way of expressing my opposition," said Kitchen, who at 25 now laughs at the memory. "It felt like I was personally being attacked."

The act of rebellion foreshadowed what lay ahead for Kitchen. A decade after Utah voters overwhelming passed that amendment, Kitchen and his partner, Moudi Sbeity, 26, are one of three gay and lesbian couples who are plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the state that led a federal judge to overturn the ban in December.

They will be among a Utah contingent of gay marriage supporters in Denver on Thursday for a hearing before the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, which is mulling over whether to make gay marriage legal in Utah.

The couple has become the face of gay marriage and a major reason why more than 1,000 gay and lesbian couples were able to marry after the ruling and more may be able to legally tie the knot in the future.

Over the last three months, Kitchen and Sbeity have become superstars in the gay marriage movement. They have given speeches at raucous rallies and talked to high school classes. They've appeared in so many newspaper pictures and TV interviews that strangers come up to them and thank them for what they've done when they're out selling their homemade hummus.

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