Group rallies at courthouse in support of same-sex marriage; STGnews Videocast

Aidan Avery and between 30 and 40 advocates of same-sex marriage gathered at the Fifth District Courthouse in St. George in support of the U.S. Supreme Court potentially overturning Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act, St. George, Utah, March 26, 2013 | Photo by Sarafina Amodt,St. George News

ST. GEORGE – Supporters of marriage equality gathered at the Fifth District Courthouse in St. George Tuesday in a show of solidarity with similar groups asking the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn California’s Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act.

“Its all-American solidarity showing,” said Aidan Avery, the organizer of the gathering that drew between 30 and 40 people.

He said a part of why he and others were at the courthouse was to help send a message to people  “about the needs of the citizens,” namely the right any consenting adult, regardless of sexual orientation, should have to marry.

“This is a small but powerful gathering,” Avery said, “I will not be bullied into silence.”

Avery told a story of being a gay youth at Dixie High School in the late 1980s and being beaten and driven out of school because he wouldn’t remain silent about his orientation. He said he ultimately had to sue the school district to allow him to return so he could exercise the right to receive an education.

“I will not be pushed by bullies,” he said.

From 1963-1994, Ross Taylor was on the faculty or administration of Dixie High, serving as principal from 1984-1994.  He said he never heard of Avery and when he checked yearbooks for those years, he did not find Avery in them. Taylor said he did not recall any incident at Dixie High or hearing of any incident in the district where a student was removed for an issue related to sexual orientation.

“There’s no doubt if it had gone to the point of having him removed that I would remember,” Taylor said. “I can’t think of any time we’ve ever challenged a student’s right to be in school over sexual orientation.”

Taylor said that Washington County School District holds principals’ meetings monthly and that an issue like this would be discussed and that all the principals would discuss a case of the district being sued. There were students who had been open about their sexual identity that Taylor remembered but he did not recall any occasions of them being bullied and no case of any removal from school.

See Ed. Note at the close of this report added March 27, 2013.

Avery’s fiancé was present at the gathering. While Utah law currently does not allow for same-sex marriage, a number of states in recent years have passed legislation allowing marriage equality or some measure of civil union.

“If we do not repeal DOMA and Prop 8,” Avery said, “it is very important that we remember that we have another day in court, there’s always another day in court.”

(Story continues below)

Videocast by Sarafina Amodt, St. George News

California’s Proposition 8 and DOMA strictly define marriage as between a man and a woman, something that has not set well with supporters of gay marriage since DOMA was passed in 1996 and Proposition 8 passed in 2008.

Claudia Bradshaw, a local leader of PFLAG, Parents Families & Friends of Lesbians and Gays, was also at the rally. She has been with the organization for 13 years and said its purpose is to advocate for equal treatment of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community under the law.

“My marriage hasn’t been damaged” by people seeking gay marriage, she said. If anything, Bradshaw said it is unenlightened straight people who are causing the trouble.

“It’s the straight people who don’t understand who cause all the chaos,” she said.

John Dixon was one of the individuals to address the gathering and said his great grandfather had been born a slave, but died a business man. People in his great grandfather’s time also sought civil rights and equality, he said, which were eventually achieved in later generations.

“I can marry whoever I want,” Dixon said and asked why the LGBT community does not have the choice to marry as they please?

“These are my brothers,” Dixon said, referring to Avery and his fiancé, “and they should be treated equally.”

Another voice to address the crowd was that of Carolyn Osmanski, who introduced herself as a “proud mother of a gay young man.”

She related the story of how her son feared telling her he was gay, and before doing so, asked her if she would love him no matter what.

“No child should ever have to ask that question,” Osmanski said.  Her son told her he had studied what happened to some children after they told their parent they were gay – they tended to be kicked out of their homes and disowned. Her son was afraid the same thing would happen to him, she said.

“No child should ever have to feel that way,” she said. She added that her son had been depressed for many years until he told her about his sexual orientation. Afterward he became vibrant and happy again, she said.

As for the issue of marriage equality, Osmanski said her son is in a relationship with a member of the military. If a man can serve in the military and die for his country, she said, then why can’t he love and marry whom he will too?

As far as concerns from the religious sector that overturning Proposition 8 and DOMA may eventually lead to government infringing on religious freedoms, Avery said that wasn’t what he is trying to do.

To those who may be concerned that if DOMA is found to be unconstitutional religious organizations may be told that they need to honor same-sex marriage, Avery said:

“I think that’s a legitimate concern for people who don’t understand what it is that we are fighting for. We’re not fighting to change people’s religious viewpoints and we are not fighting to change religious organizations that are protected under the Constitution as independent from state and federal government. We are fighting for the federal government to take a serious look at its citizens and to say it’s not OK to take our money for taxes and it’s not OK to say that we are born on American soil and we are good enough to die for our country in times of war or just you know it’s not OK to be unrepresented.  …

“We’re not asking for churches to change their policy. We’re asking for the federal government to do its job and protect the rights of its citizens … It’s either a United States or a divided states.”

Doug Gubler, a student at Dixie State University and openly gay member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said people have the right to believe what they want to believe.

“My right is to be treated equally,” Gubler said. “I think that all of us, especially here in Utah, have fought and wanted to be treated – and seeing as how we used to practice polygamy – that we would like to have the right to love and not have to be ashamed of what we do in the privacy of our own homes. So that’s how I define it as the right to love and be loved.”

The U.S. Supreme Court heard the arguments concerning Proposition 8 Tuesday, and will hear arguments surrounding DOMA Wednesday.

Ed. Note March 27, 2013 – Avery has contacted St. George News. He said he has changed his name since high school, he was born Joel Cribbs. He stands by the story related in this article, with clarification that his lawsuit was threatened but not brought. Avery has been invited by St. George News to produce corroboration of his high school experience which may be considered for further report.


Audio of the March 26 arguments before the Supreme Court of the United States – linked here


St. George News Editor-in-Chief Joyce Kuzmanic contributed to this story.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @MoriKessler

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2013, all rights reserved.

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  • B Robins March 27, 2013 at 12:41 pm

    I attended Dixie High School from 87-91. I never saw this person. I think somebody should investigate these claims. It should be easy to investigate if a lawsuit was filed. I know of several friends and classmates that live alternate lifestyles. None of them were treated with this type of disrespect. I think Mr. Avery is either distorting the truth, or fabricating the events in their entirety.

  • WHOCARES March 27, 2013 at 8:48 pm

    Your investigative journalism skills are seriously lacking. If he presented you with his birth name it takes 30 seconds to find out if he ever attended Dixie High School. In fact, Joel Cribbs is listed in the Dixie High School yearbooks for the years 1987-1990. I just Googled it and found it in less than a minute. Perhaps, you shouldn’t make implications that people are not being honest without further investigation. Also, bullies always deny any wrong doing. Ofttimes, so does administration when kids are bullied. If you pulled high schoolers from all over the county and asked how many had been victims of bullying and then went to administrators and asked if they remembered those students or events you are going to get an overwhelming amount of administrators saying “No.” That doesn’t mean the victims lied, it is natural for people to side with the popular kids and this includes teachers, administrators and apparently, the so-called press.

  • B Robins March 28, 2013 at 12:48 pm

    Maybe you could Google the alleged lawsuit. I still don’t believe it. I maintain that he is a liar. I stick to my original claim, I never went to school with Aiden Avery. I do vaguely remember Joel Cribs. Runs in my mind they lived abroad for some of that time he was “in High School”.

  • ShiningLight March 28, 2013 at 12:48 pm

    I remember Joel Cribbs getting beat up and suing some kid’s family. I was there when it happened. But he didn’t get beat up for being gay. He got punched for being loud mouthed and obnoxious. He wouldn’t shut up and was always saying offensive things. It sounds like someone is changing details around to fit an agenda. Not that I care one way or the other. I think gay people should marry!

  • guiding light March 28, 2013 at 10:57 pm

    first of all i was there at the rally and heard Mr. Avery’s speech and he did not say he sued the school, in fact he said that his family was threatening to sue the school if they wouldn’t let Aidan back into school so maybe Mori Kessler should do a better job at keep his notes straight . and as for you shining light its kinda funny how you claim to know details about this event even down to Aidan only getting” punched” for being loud, sounds a bit fishy to me…. are you the one who “punched” him because you seem so certain as to why he was “punched” it seems to me the only ones that can be so certain as to why he got “punched” would be the one who did the” punching” and the one who got “punched” not that your perspective matters anyways because i what i found obnoxious and offensive about your comment was the way you, like so many others on so many issues blame the victim for the actions of the perpetrator, if it was a young girl who was raped for wearing a short skirt, would you blame her for her short skirt? I’m just shinning some light on the possibilities…… your welcome!

    • sweet jude March 29, 2013 at 2:21 pm

      Guiding light, if you were there at the rally then why didn’t you clarify what he said in your original post? Something tells me agendas are a little fishy here

  • DixieStudent March 29, 2013 at 2:23 pm

    Guiding Light,

    Joel was never the victim. He was every bit the loudmouthed obnoxious punk that shining light says he was. He was in your face obnoxious about his attitude and mouthed off the the wrong kid at the wrong time. It wasn’t the “hate” crime you want to believe it was. Joel is hiding behind a fake name and a fake story to further an agenda. If Joel wants to play the poor picked on victim fine. But get YOUR story straight before you defend him on something you know nothing about. As I recall, BOTH students were expelled for the little incident.

    • Aidan Avery (FKA) Joel Cribbs May 4, 2013 at 11:08 am

      There is no agenda other than to expose the truth about the history that St George has traditionally tried to twist from the vines of truth and throw out! I am not hiding, I never did! Why start now? “ShiningLight,” “DixieStudent” and “sweet jude,” why are you hiding behind these pseudonyms? You all, save “sweet jude” claim to know my story. Even say you went to Dixie with me. Does openly endorsing the behavior of Vaughn Hansen (who was the bully which gay-bashed me and shattered my nose inside ceramics class at Dixie high school) make you NOW uncomfortable seeings how public opinion in this city is no longer as anti-gay as it was in the late 1980’s. I have often wondered how many of my fellow school mates would have been able to endure the constant state of threat I was forced to live in as the only OPENLY GAY PERSON IN DIXIE HIGH SCHOOL AT THE TIME? Yes I spoke up and out! Yes I have an inner strength that many who sought to oppress me in my youth found obnoxious! How does one handle a gay child, who won’t shut his mouth and persists on speaking his truth regardless of the bullies both young and grown? Beat them? Blame them for their beating? Ostracize them because of their difference? Side with the bullies to avoid your own “justified” beating? hmm. How long could you maintain your composure and dignity while being terrorized by your school mates? So you STILL justify Vaughn’s actions by blaming the me for being a “loud mouth!” Okay. If you recall me so well and feel so sure that I was a justified beating for being myself (load mouth or not), BRAVE UP! Who are you? Are you willing to let others judge you openly as they have and do me? Are you person enough to let others know your real name. I have never hid from anyone or any adversity! What are you hiding? I wonder if it is the simple uncomfortable realization that you don’t feel okay anymore with what happened to me and that frightens you to think that you were that kind of person who would sit by and watch someone be abused day after day and do nothing about it? It’s okay to question yourself, this is how one grows. I am not suggesting that I was or am perfect being… that would make me God and that I AM NOT. But really… Did I deserve to have my nose shattered, multiple reconstructive surgeries to allow my self to have a normal face again. There was a time in my life that I almost believed what you do know. That it was my fault… if only I could have been “normal.” Well that was not what God intended for me and honestly nothing a kid could say would ever JUSTIFY a bashed in face! If I was such a terrible person in high school that my ultimate deserves was a beat down, please enlighten me. I am willing to listen. Hear your perspective. All I ask in return is that you hear me through as well and listen to my perspective. We don’t have to agree when all that is said, but it sounds to me that you have some animosity towards me and/or the LGBTQI community and I have some healing to do too. Maybe we could help one another… Let’s start with a reintroduction. Hello my name is Aidan Avery, but I was born Joel Lindsey Cribbs and I attended Dixie High School with you. What was your name again?

  • Spence September 2, 2014 at 3:41 pm

    I was Joel’s friend in High School. Although I never saw him get beat up, I did see his nose was broken and he had to get surgery for it. I also remember being called to the principals office once and being asked if I knew if he was gay. I don’t know why you would pull a student out of class just to ask them if another student was gay… It makes no sense to me. That was weird and strange. Aidan Avery is someone who abused my friendship and trust. And I won’t stand up for him. But he’s not lying about his treatment in High School. It was a frightening time. And Joel Cribbs was brave. Not only was he brave, he helped others like me who were trying to figure themselves out.

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