By ANDY GARDNER
A Potsdam native and her partner were the first same-sex couple to tie the knot in Sevier County, Utah during a brief period where the state allowed gay marriage.
Katy Clark, who was born in Potsdam in 1962, was wedded to Stacy Howard on December 27.
Although a December 20 court ruling allowed same-sex unions, an appeal has had them under statewide moratorium since Jan. 6, pending a ruling from U.S. District Court, Denver.
Clark said they first tried to get a marriage license on Dec. 23 in Richfield, Utah, about 20 miles from their hometown of Salina.
"We were turned away because the officials weren't certain yet if they were really supposed to issue one to us and were waiting for word ... from higher-up officials," Clark wrote via email.
The couple returned home and made the earliest possible appointment to get married, which was at 2:30 p.m. Jan. 6 in Salt Lake City, a three-hour drive from their residence.
"It was the only area in the state where we were able to easily find someone who would do it," Clark wrote. "We also didn't want to feel like we were forcing a clerk of court or anyone to go against their beliefs to marry us."
Hearing media reports of an impending hold on same-sex marriages, they returned to Richfield on Dec. 27 to try and at least have a marriage license issued. The person who usually performs marriages was out, so a judge performed an impromptu ceremony then and there, Clark said, adding that their witnesses were several court employees.
"They all shook our hands afterwards and made us feel proud that we were making history. It was a very positive experience," Clark wrote.
Clark said their wedding was fortunately timed.
"On the exact day that we were originally going to do it in Salt Lake City, the hold on same-sex marriage was put into effect at noon!" Clark wrote. "We would have been on the road, making the more than three hour trip to get there.
"Once legally married they can't take it away from you so fortunately it's still valid."
Despite the courts and some state officials taking a conservative stance on the gay marriage issue, Clark says Salina has welcomed her and her wife with open arms.
"We've made lots of friends here and the people in our town have been very supportive of us. They're 'good folk' around here!" Clark wrote.
Clark lived in St. Lawrence County until she was eight months old, she said. Her parents were Ida and Frank Clark, both now dead. Her maternal uncle is Merrill Brainard, a former deputy sheriff.
After leaving Potsdam, the family moved to Mt. Ivy, near Ponoma in the southern tier region.
They left New York state when Clark was 14 and moved to Orlando, Fla., where she met her now-wife, a native of the city, in 2003. The couple now runs a campground in their hometown and are avid rock and mineral collectors, Clark said.