The Middle East and the West collided in one relationship of Moudi Sbeity and Derek Kitchen; and Utah’s gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and ally community will likely never forget it.
The case that District Judge Robert Shelby ruled Utah’s ant-gay marriage laws unconstitutional will forever forward be called Kitchen v. Herbert.
Sbeity moved to Logan, Utah, in July 2006, an evacuee from the Israeli-Lebanese conflict. He was evacuated because he held a U.S. passport since he was born in Houston, Texas, while his mother was visiting family. He was raised in Beirut, Lebanon.
“I am very lucky and fortunate to have the American passport,” Sbeity said. “Without it, I would not be where I am today. I would not be with Derek, and I would not be a plaintiff in Kitchen v. Herbert.”
Kitchen is a Utah native who grew up near South Jordan.
“I always imagined that I’d move far, far away. But then I fell in love with Salt Lake City and the rest is history,” Kitchen said.
The couple owns a Middle Eastern food company is Salt Lake City called Laziz, which produces and distributes Middle Eastern spreads at local grocery stores and farmers markets. They have been running Laziz for two years and also teach cooking classes.
The couple met and dated long distance for the first year.
“I had a blog during my undergraduate years with my personal musings, which Derek found and regularly commented,” Sbeity said. “We then connected again on a now-defunct website, Connexion, and from there decided to go on a date.”
Sbeity remembers the date well when Kitchen drove to Logan from Salt Lake City: Saturday, Oct. 10.
“We spent the entire day together, and mutually decided to give our best effort to connect and share our life experiences together,” Sbeity said. “And we still are four and a half years later.”
The couple met Mark Lawrence, president of Restore Our Humanity, at a Utah Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce social. After several interactions, Mark approached them about the opportunity.
“Moudi was hesitant at first, but we felt like this was the right thing to do,” Kitchen said. “We realized that at this point in our life — being co-owners in a business, living together, adopting a dog, being very close with each others families — that it was time to get married.”
The couple, however, are holding out until the case is finalized and forever “written in the books without compromise.”
“We are confident this will happen soon, and are hopefully planning a wedding for this coming fall,” Sbeity said. “Time and money permitting.”
About being party of this historic event, the couple were extremely humble.
“It feels humbling,” Sbeity said. “Humbling because this is bigger than us. This is about generations past and future, about children who will grow up without the piercing stigma of being a second-class citizen, and who will grow up with no second thought about the person they love.”
“On the other hand, it feels elevating, because we collectively put in our efforts to better our community and the lives of our brothers and sisters,” he continued. “It feels so good to know that, because of the commitment that we put in, alongside Kody, Laurie, Kate, Karen, Mark, Peggy, James and Jennifer, we were able to do something good for millions of people. It makes us want to give more of ourselves to do good. We’re very proud.”
Photo credit: Jadie Jo Photography (http://jadiejophotography.com/)