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At issue in the pending Supreme Court ruling is whether the 14th Amendment, ratified in 1868 to guarantee equal protections, bans states from treating gay and straight couples differently.Cautioning the justices against ruling in favor of gay marriage, the brief Danny and his wife pinned their names to states: “Rather than expand liberty, such a judgment would not only ignore the deeply fulfilling marriages between same-sex-attracted men and women and their spouses, but would also constitutionally demean such marriages and families.”“I decided to sign it,” Danny told me, “because our marriage that we have, I do feel, is under attack.”Danny, a therapist, and Erin, a part-time pediatric nurse, had invited me into their home in Orem, Utah one Sunday after church so I could learn more about that marriage.Surprisingly, he offered the amici a word of praise.“What I like about [them] is there is an openness,” Williams explained while sipping black coffee in a Salt Lake City café.

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But Troy Williams, a Salt Lake City LGBT activist, knows many of the amici and their wives.

He couldn’t disagree with them more, but he understands them.“Family is part of the cosmology of Mormonism,” Williams said, referring to the tenet of eternal progression. In a way you actually become like a god, have your own planets, and then populate them with your own children.” Perpetuating that family through all eternity depends upon a man being sealed in marriage to a woman in an LDS temple.

Hardly a salacious gesture, not even for a conservative American family like the Caldwells. “Want” isn’t the term he’d use; it’s more like his body desires it. Its signees, or amici, all hail from “mixed-orientation” marriages: same-sex-attracted men married to straight women.

Two jagged syllables that seemed to gouge at her chest.

As a Mormon growing up in Oregon, he remembers strong same-sex urges as an adolescent.

“I just believed if I went on a mission and was super-righteous that I’d be okay and it would go away eventually.”He proselytized the Mormon gospel and papered over his sexuality with rightwing politics. But Williams’s sexuality kept bubbling to the surface, until he realized he could no longer deny his nature.

When Desmond, still in his Sunday best—tie, white button-down, green vest—dashed into the room, I hesitated and smiled. That Danny feels “under attack” is hardly surprising. The church’s early history is marked by the persecution of marriage practices others found peculiar: Americans didn’t take kindly to Mormon polygamy in the 1800s.

Danny and Erin smiled back at me from the couch where they sat entwined, squeezing hands. Threatened, tarred-and-feathered, and driven from state to state—their founder and prophet, Joseph Smith, shot dead—Mormons slogged across the continent until they landed in present-day Utah, where they found sanctuary, a place to marry whomever they wanted. Because of that history, Mormons’ loud and public opposition to gay marriage has always carried with it an undeniable irony.

e were in the basement, a shirtless Jim Morrison looming on the wall behind me, when Erin Caldwell’s naked foot snaked under her husband Danny’s leg. That I’m just sleeping around on the side, and that I’m not really in love with her…they’ve called her ‘a fag hag.’”Erin flinched at those words. Six weeks earlier, in April of this year, the Caldwells declared their unusual marriage in the form of an amicus brief to the Supreme Court of the United States, which they cosigned with 19 other people, nearly all members of the Mormon church.

Her toes, one adorned with a ring, coiled around his thigh and hooked in to nest behind his knee. Yet lately, “Horrible, horrible things have been said. Submitted in advance of the court’s oral arguments, the brief contests the constitutional legalization of gay marriage.

What Danny Caldwell and his fellow amici have done is something else entirely.

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