On Friday, an estimated 1,800 people rallied at Utah's capitol in Salt Lake City to support marriage equality. A petition calling on Governor Gary Herbert to recognize the 1,360 same-sex marriages that took place in the 17 days when such unions were legal was delivered to the Governor's office — along with 58,000 pro-equality signatures, according to Towleroad.
While the rally was full of impassioned pleas for equality, one 12-year-old's speech made arguably the strongest, most heartfelt case for equality in the Beehive state.
With his little brother at his side, Riley Hackford-Peer delivered a poignant, emotional speech that garnered several enthusiastic rounds of applause.
"Some people do not believe that I am from a loving family, because my moms are gay," said Hackford-Peer. "They are wrong. … And come on, think about it — gay means happy, so it only makes sense that we're a loving, happy family!"
Hackford-Peer's moms married in the brief window between December 20, when a federal judge ruled Utah's voter-approved ban on marriage equality unconstitutional, and Monday, when the U.S. Supreme Court granted a stay on that ruling. Hackford-Peer said seeing his moms marry was one of the happiest moments in his life — second only to the birth of his little brother.
"At school we talked about things we hoped to see during our lifetime," the 12-year-old told the crowd. "I always said I imagined my moms getting married in Utah. On December 20 it happened! I saw my moms get married — in Utah! It felt like fireworks bursting in my heart. …The funny thing is, nothing really changed. We're still a family, and we all love each other. The only difference is that they now they have equal rights. But Governor Herbert wants to treat my moms unfairly. He says he wants to 'protect families.' But I want to tell him that my family deserves protection too! I have two moms. And I love them. And they deserve to have their marriage recognized everywhere."
Gov. Herbert and state attorney general Sean Reyes have thus far refused to recognize the more than 1,300 same-sex marriages that took place during Utah's 17-day equality window. But on Friday, U.S. attorney general Eric Holder announced that those couples will be considered married for purposes of federal law, noting that the couples who married "should not be asked to endure uncertainty regarding their status as the litigation unfolds."
Watch Hackford-Peer's moving speech below: