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Utah state senator proposes to longtime partner at marriage ruling celebration

Thursday, June 27, 2013
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SALT LAKE CITY — An openly gay Utah state senator didn’t just give a speech at a party celebrating two Supreme Court victories for gay rights — he took to the stage to propose to his longtime partner.

Democratic state Sen. Jim Dabakis popped the question to partner Stephen Justesen Wednesday at a rainbow flag-draped rally at Salt Lake City’s Club Sound. The two met 26 years ago.

Chris Detrick, The Salt Lake Tribune/AP
Utah Sen. Jim Dabakis, D-Salt Lake City, (right) proposes to Stephen Justesen, his partner of over twenty-five years, during a party at Club Sound Wednesday in Salt Lake City.

“Stephen, after all these years, will you marry me?” Dabakis said over the whoops of an approving crowd.

Dabakis, who took office earlier this year, is an art dealer and founding chair of the Utah Pride Center. In 2011, he became the first openly gay person to lead a state party in Utah.

Just hours after the high court on Wednesday struck down part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage between a man and a woman, and cleared the way for same-sex unions in California, Dabakis stepped on stage at the celebration.

He opened by saying the gay marriage issue was “very deeply, deeply personal” for him, and introduced the crowd to “a wonderful man” he met nearly three decades ago.

That’s when Dabakis pulled out a ring he said he’d purchased that day and put it on Justensen’s finger.

Justesen told the crowd Dabakis had given him a different ring years ago that he still wears, but “this is super fantastic to have another one.”

Dabakis told The Salt Lake Tribune the proposal was a spur-of-the-moment decision and a wedding date hasn’t been set.

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