The documentary chronicles the fight over Utah’s Amendment 3.
If you were a person, like me, that is part of the LGBTQIA community that grew up in the early 2000’s (or someone who grew up before that), the notion of marriage was always a grey area. For most of my life, getting married to someone was a fantasy–a distant mirage that never fully came into focus. Since marriage equality became legal in 2015, we tend to forget that there was en exhaustive fight to get the same right to tie the knot with someone you love, and that’s especially true in the state of Utah. Holly Tuckett and Kendall Wilcox’s Church & State is a reminder that the fight for our rights is never a quiet or speedy one–we must always be prepared to volunteer for duty.
At the top of the film, we witness a traditional marriage rally, and that phrase is as disturbing as you may think. In 2004, 66% of voters in Utah succeeded in putting through a constitutional ban that would prohibit same sex marriage. When Mark Lawrence, one of the central focuses of the documentary, threatens to take it down, communities in Utah banded together to show their support of a seemingly traditional type of marriage. Those scenes, and there are several through Church & State, are so frightening because they are contemporary. The people who attend these rallies are vehement in their belief that marriage should remain between a man and a woman, and you can almost feel the temperate rising in the room.
One of the most successful things about the documentary is that Church & State really focuses on the individual stories of the people who fought this fight in Utah. Normally, a documentary could be called out for using testimonials or talking heads to relay the story, but Tuckett and Wilcox really use that to their advantage. The film is about how a small conversation can turn into a huge movement, and the simplicity of these interviews really allow you to get to know these people. It must be exactly how the amendment was overturned–we have grassroots activists going up against a traditional and powerful organization.
Not only does Church & State follow Lawrence and the plaintiff (Peggy Tomsic’s story of adopting her son is a real beam of light throughout the film), but the directors are smart to include some history of the Mormon faith and archival footage of the Latter-day Saints Elders as they read proclamations against homosexuality. It shows what Lawrence and his team are up against, and, at times, we think that they may lose even though we know the outcome.
Church & State is a David and Goliath story. When you hear the hateful words of the people who are denying the rights of other, it makes you want to stand up and join the fight because there will always be someone standing in the way of the LGBTQIA community–Kim Davis. Mike Pence. Donald Trump. Be the one who helps change our history.
Church & State is now available on Amazon.