Stacia, 60, is semi-retired after teaching math to junior high and high school students for 30 years. She now works part time at a community college, helping students with disabilities. JoNell, 61, is a painter and works as human resources director at a nonprofit. JoNell has lived in Utah since she was a child. Her family has been in Utah since the pioneer days. Stacia grew up in Arizona and has lived in Utah for all of her adult life. The couple lives on land that has been in JoNell’s family for generations, and many of their immediate neighbors are family members.
Having seen friends kept from being with each other in times of medical crisis, JoNell and Stacia had wills and powers of attorney drawn up in the hopes of protecting their ability to be with one another in the event of hospitalization. In 2010, Stacia suffered a heart attack, and JoNell scrambled to locate a copy of their legal documents before they left for the hospital. Although she was allowed to stay at Stacia’s side, hospital staff were hesitant to fully include JoNell, as they would a legal spouse.
After learning about the Kitchen decision, JoNell and Stacia rushed to downtown Salt Lake City that very day for a marriage license. Only a few days later, Stacia had severe chest pains so they had to go to the hospital again. This time, upon learning that JoNell and Stacia were married, the hospital staff was much more welcoming and included JoNell in all medical decision making conversations. But now that the governor has announced that the state will not recognize their relationship – “We’re back at square one, with no idea what’s going to happen to us if one of us is hospitalized,” says Stacia. “After 13 years together, we just want the security and peace of mind to know we can be there for each other in the hard times.”