Church & State: Where the Fight for Marriage Equality began

Church & State DVD Cover
"Church & State: Where the Fight for Marriage Equality began"

Would you be surprised to learn that Utah was pivotal in the decision?

How much about marriage equality do you really know? The outcome is history: On June 26, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court made it illegal for states to ban same-sex marriage. But would you be surprised to learn that Utah was pivotal?

A Mom & Dad in Every Childs Life poster
Scene form “Church & State: Where the Fight for Marriage Equality began”

The battle and the movie Church & State starts in 2004 when 66% of Utah voters banned same-sex marriage.Ten years later, lone citizen Mark Lawrence decided to sue the State of Utah to change that.

Church & State is a story about Mark (and the other participants in the case) as much as it is a story about groundbreaking legal decisions, and it gets personal. At one point, Mark is credited as “the glue that stuck this all together,” while later, he was “not included anymore.” Why? The film presents his backstory while also sharing a history lesson that every gay man and woman should know.

It was Friday, February 8, 2013, at 3:55 pm, when attorney Jim Maglesby received an email from Mark. He accepted the case along with another lawyer in his practice, Peggy Tomsic. She was raising a boy with her partner, but without any legal parental rights due to a lack of marriage equality. To her, the case was personal. “If I could accomplish this, I could ask Cindy to marry me, and I’d be able to adopt Marcelino,” she said.

Church & State a lesbian and gay couple standing together
Scene from “Church & State: Where the Fight for Marriage Equality began”

Utah is notable due to its history as being founded and still heavily influenced by The Church of Latter Day Saints (LDS), better known as the Mormons. “Mormon history, doctrine, and culture permeate every aspect of public policy and public opinion,” journalist Jennifer Dobner says. The church is in charge, feels marriage is between a man and a woman for eternity (even though it used to accept polygamy), and vehemently rejects homosexuality.

The documentary is filled with actual footage of protests, rallies, interviews with participants and plaintiffs, and intimate insights into those pursuing the case through the court system, attempting to fight the church while simultaneously influencing the State.
The ultimate decision is a part of history, but if you don’t remember it, be sure to watch this documentary for education while sharing in the participants’ ups, downs, and unexpected turns along the way. Mark may also surprise you at the end when he answers whether he would do it all over again.

The fact is he did do it, and ultimately impacted the lives of millions of people and their families, in whatever loving form they take.

Church & State, directed by Holly Tuckett and Kendall Wilcox, was the winner of the Special Jury Award at the American Documentary Film Festival and Film Fund and the Filmmaker Award at the International Filmmaker Festival of World Cinema.

Church & State launched on DVD January 21, 2020, and is available here:

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