Feature | Gay Bride: Looking for a legal marriage, Utah same-sex couples are California-bound. | Cover Story | Salt Lake City Weekly
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Feature | Gay Bride: Looking for a legal marriage, Utah same-sex couples are California-bound.



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The Dating and Mating Game
Before a mutual friend introduced Catherine Healey and Janet Cope at a Sunday breakfast, Healey had just come off a short and fiery relationship that ended badly. She planned to stay single, continue her career as a police dispatcher and finish her master’s degree. To Healey’s surprise, Cope approached her at a birthday party and whispered, “Girl, you are making me crazy,” before walking away. Healey phoned Cope that night inviting her to meet for coffee the next day, where she presented her with a long-stemmed pink rose.

Their date lasted from 11 a.m. until after they watched the sunset that night. They talked for hours about a variety of topics, including how they each wanted to be moms and the ways they might accomplish parenthood. “We talked about adoption and foreign adoption,” Healey remembers. “That day kind of sealed the deal.”

Cope’s relationship with her current partner was dissolving. Their home was for sale. She and Healey both eventually moved in with a group of friends. Two months after they met, they traveled to Maui for a trip they now consider to be their honeymoon.

Altman and Amundsen, both corporate lawyers in Salt Lake County, met in a professional setting. Altman was serving as moral support for a lawsuit involving Amundsen’s client. After corresponding online and dating for a year, Altman sold her Victorian-era home in the Avenues neighborhood and moved into Amundsen’s Sugar House home. Today, the couple is out of the closet at all social and professional occasions. Still, Altman says, “Every day of the year, every hour of the day, you still have to come out. By knowing us, people will know that this supposedly ‘gay agenda’ means going to work every day, paying your taxes and washing the dogs. Just living our lives like any other couple wants to live theirs.”

State Sen. Scott McCoy, D-Salt Lake City, and his partner Mark Barr, plan to marry in California in the future. They will then hold a reception in Utah. “For us Utah couples, being able to marry legally in California is a symbolic display of recognition that demonstrates our relationships are on equal footing with other heterosexual relationships,” McCoy says. “The ability to marry demonstrates a respect and appreciation for same-sex relationships even if they aren’t recognized under the law in Utah. That begins the process of recognition that is the first step down the road to ultimate acceptance.”

Amundsen and Altman feel they share “a lot of sameness.” They are both successful in their law practices and share “an odd sense of humor where we find the same sort of things funny that no one else would even see as humorous.” Altman says she is more uptight; Amundsen more laid back. “I’m the one who paints the borders while Martha does the middle,” Altman says.

Like the majority of straight couples heading toward marriage, the issue of children—especially how to actually produce them—weighs heavily on many gay couples. Four years into her relationship with Cope, Healey underwent two artificial inseminations without getting pregnant. “We decided we needed a dad,” Cope says. “We wanted the child to have an active relationship with his father.” For three years, as they talked with and considered specific fatherhood candidates, they asked themselves what each person’s dedication to the relationship would be. “It actually became almost stressful,” Cope recalls.

As their friend, Bob Elton, watered his garden and prepared for a barbecue one summer evening, he told Cope and Healey that being a father was something he had dreamed about his whole life. The 54-year-old gay man who rode in rodeos and worked for Utah Valley Hospital as a radiology director had tears in his eyes as he said, “I would love to be a dad.”

That emotional moment was in stark contrast to the hectic schedule that followed. There were repeated efforts at artificial insemination, using Elton’s donated sperm, at University Hospital. “I got discouraged a lot—every time I took a pregnancy test and the results were negative,” Cope recalls. Finally, after three years of medical intervention, Cope became pregnant.