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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Supporters of same-sex marriage in Utah are condemning opponents they accuse of exploiting the children of same-sex couples by using their photos as propaganda at an anti-gay marriage rally.
Leaders of Utah Celebration of Marriage projected the images on a screen at a rally held Thursday in the Capitol Rotunda to show support for what the group describes as "traditional families."
Conservative activist Mary Summerhays showed photos of two men holding their son and two women with their baby daughter and told the crowd the children "will pay the price of redefining marriage."
One of the families shown in the photos was Matthew Baraza and Tony Milner and their son. Baraza and Milner are plaintiffs in the lawsuit seeking to force Utah to recognize the same-sex marriages conducted in December and January.
Marina Gomberg, interim direct of Equality Utah, said it was a "disgrace" for those who oppose the freedom to marry "to use our families for a misguided and debunked view of what is best for children."
"It is one thing to disagree with the freedom to marry, it's quite another to go after loving parents and their children at a political rally," she said in a statement Friday on behalf of Utah Unites for Marriage.
Summerhays defended the use of the pictures Saturday in an email to The Salt Lake Tribune.
"These photos were featured repeatedly in the Deseret News and Salt Lake Tribune beginning as early as January 10th, 2014, and illustrate that a child will lose at least one biological relationship when it comes into conflict with a same-sex marriage," she wrote.
Utah became one of the focal points for the same-sex marriage movement after a federal judge threw out its voter-approved ban in December. More than 1,000 gay and lesbian couples married before the U.S. Supreme Court put the ruling on hold pending appeal.
The ruling from U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby triggered a series of similar rulings across the country and helped fuel a court winning streak for gay marriage advocates.
In June, a federal appeals court in Denver upheld the ruling, and now, Utah officials are appealing that decision to the U.S. Supreme Court in a last attempt to keep a ban voters approved in 2004.
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