Photos: Impossible and Embarrassing


Utah has been the surprising site of unthinkable marriages over the past few weeks.

The photo to the right is of one of the three couples who brought suit against the state for discriminatory practices related to marriage. Laurie Wood, to the left, is my colleague at UVU. Kody Partridge, to the right, is a long-time acquaintance.

The photo is of the celebration immediately after Laurie and Kody were married, not long after the federal court judge ruled that Utah couldn’t deny the benefits of marriage to people based on their sex.

I think it is a beautiful photo.

I wrote Laurie an email to congratulate her—and thank her.

Thank her for all of us, but especially for my brother John. John had no such opportunity. John’s life might have been better, longer, had he lived when discrimination based on sexual preference was declared unconstitutional.

Thinking about the photo of Laurie and Kody, I remember another photo, taken by my sister Christy in the back yard of our home in Farmington, New Mexico.


It is a fuzzy photo, taken quickly with Christy’s little Kodak camera. Jeff stands there, a little boy (he was born the year I left for college), watching.

It is also an unlikely photo. This is Farmington, New Mexico sometime in the 1970’s. This is our backyard. This is John and his lover. This is impossible.

Impossible, of course, in my mind—in the mind of someone who grew up in that red-neck, conservative, Mormon culture.

The photo still makes me uneasy (as does, to tell the truth—and this is an embarrassing truth—the photo of Laurie and Kody).

I grew up the son of mildly racist, strongly homophobic parents. I grew up in Farmington. I grew up Mormon. In my youth, in our town, Civil Rights leaders were seen as Communist pawns. (Laurie Wood is a past president of the Utah ACLU!)

I love my parents. I am proud to have come from Farmington. I am marked, positively for the most part, by my Mormon upbringing.

I wish, however, I hadn’t been taught to hate my own brother.

About Scott Abbott

Ph.D. in German Literature from Princeton University, 1979. Then I taught at Vanderbilt University, BYU, and Utah Valley State College. At Utah Valley University, I'm Director of the Program in Integrated Studies and former Chair of the Department of Humanities and Philosophy. My publications include a book on Freemasonry and the German Novel, two co-authored books with Zarko Radakovic (published in Serbo-Croatian in Belgrade), and translations of a book by Austrian author Peter Handke and of a catalogue of an exhibit called "The German Army and Genocide." More famously, my children are in the process of creating good lives for themselves: as a model and manager, as a teacher of Chinese language, as a watershed scientist and science writer, as a jazz musician, as a corrections officer, as university students, and as parents. I share my life with UVU historian Lyn Bennett and our yellow dog Blue. Some publications at
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