Film Review By: Julia Seel


Church & State is a documentary about the legalization of same-sex marriage in Utah. The film covers the roughly eighteen-month period during which a small collection of individuals brought into legal question the roots of Utah’s same-sex marriage ban, courtesy of Kitchen vs Herbert (755 F.3d 1193 | 10th Cir. 2014) and the fallout of the suit.

National consequences are well-known. After several layers of courts validated then stayed same-sex marriage, ultimately the Supreme Court of the United States said Utah and everywhere else must not deny a marriage license on the basis of sex. Church & State includes the national scope as the plot, against which acts the personal scope of the plaintiffs and legal team.

Mark Lawrence powers the beginning. Over the course of the documentary and the nationalization of the same-sex marriage movement, Lawrence reduces slowly from protagonist to one among an ensemble cast. Even his possessions are shrink-wrapped in a storage unit so he can help care for his aging father.

Utah’s argument against same-sex marriage is that being raised by one father and one mother is best for “the children”. They never produce data to back this. Kitchen vs Herbert’s answer to Utah’s argument is Peggy Tomsic who, together with her partner, raised a son in a loving non-standard family. Peggy Tomsic takes Lawrence’s case because without being married, Tomsic cannot co-adopt the child she has raised for ten years.

Over the course of Church & State, individuals make broad political impact. Later-Day-Saint pastors decide state legislature from the pulpit. A shimmering soprano leads a packed traditional marriage rally while a teen in a clown wig waves a rainbow flag behind her. Lawrence finds the one law firm willing to take on the religiously-embroiled state of Utah. Tomsic fights the state of Utah. And Judge Shelby rules in favor of same-sex marriage, thus turning over a state amendment and kicking off a national revolution.

In Theaters August 10th, 2018