OGDEN -- The minister at Unitarian Universalist Church of Ogden and her partner have been chosen to receive Equality Utah's Allies for Equality Award this fall.
The Rev. Theresa Novak and her partner, Anne Spatola, will be the subject of an extensive video to be produced by Equality Utah to highlight the work they have done to bring awareness and equality to the lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans-gender (LGBT) community.
Most notable, said the agency's executive director, are the couple's efforts to push forward an Ogden law that passed a year ago prohibiting employment or housing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
Novak said they couldn't have made such an impact on their own.
"If it were not for this congregation, I don't think we would have ever even been considered for this award, because it's all the work the congregation did," Novak said, noting her church's efforts to lobby for the law last year.
But Brandie Balken, executive director for Equality Utah, gave credit to the two women.
"Theresa and Anne were chosen for a myriad of reasons," she said, specifically naming the work they did to get the proposed ordinances passed.
"They are really doing the work in creating a safe space," Balken said. "They have worked to make Ogden a community where all residents are treated with dignity in the areas of housing and employment. Not only is Theresa an amazing minister, but they also do a lot of community building."
Besides gearing church efforts toward making political changes, Balken noted the couple's efforts to provide space for trainings, for fundraising and for an advocacy center.
The Ogden OUTreach Resource Center started out as a part of the church but within the past year has become its own nonprofit organization.
The church continues to give the group space and a donation of $200 per month out of the church coffers, Novak said.
"As successful church-created social service programs do, they get independent after a while," Novak said.
But Balken said besides those accomplishments, the couple are being touted for their long-term commitment as well.
While the two registered as domestic partners in California sometime in the mid to late 1990s, a biography on them listed January 3, 1975, as their anniversary.
The two also have three children together.
David Spatola was born in December 1984, and twins Daniel and Rebecca Novak were born in November 1988.
But their parenting actually began when Spatola's 13-year-old nephew moved in with them in 1976 for almost two years, according to the biography.
After moving to Marin County, Calif., in 1981, they became the first openly gay couple in that county to be licensed as foster parents. They had a 9-year-old girl placed in their home for a year and a half.
After she was returned to the custody of her mother, they decided to have their own biological children. Anne gave birth to David, and Theresa had the twins, Daniel and Rebecca.
They used the same sperm donor, so the children are biological half siblings, states the biography.
They were able to legally cross adopt the children in 1995, states the biography. All three children have now graduated from college and are employed in the San Francisco Bay area.
The biography states that they both officially came out as lesbians in 1973. They became a couple after meeting at a women's dance sponsored by Berkeley Unitarian Fellowship, and have been together ever since.
Spatola worked for the state of California, Department of Social Services, for 25 years until she retired in 2006.
In the early 1980s, she helped developed an HIV/AIDS outreach program for Social Security disability benefits, which was the first of its kind in the country, states the biography.
Spatola also helped establish gay-straight alliances in local high schools.
Novak worked for the Social Security Administration in Richmond, Calif., between 1976 and 2001, primarily in management positions, states the biography. She was the national president of the Social Security Administration Federal Managers Association and served on the board of Spectrum, a GLBT community center.
Novak served a yearlong internship at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Annapolis, Md., before graduating from Starr King School of the Ministry in 2007. She has served as minister of Unitarian Universalist Church of Ogden since fall 2007.