Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Hate Crimes Bill Signing!

At 12:30 Mountain time, in the Rose Garden, President Obama will sign the Hate Crimes bill. Watch it live:

Friday, October 23, 2009

Matthew Shepard Act PASSES!

This is a message from NCLR:

Today, the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) applauds the United States Senate for final passage of the hate crimes bill, now known as the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. The Department of Defense conference report was approved with the hate crimes bill provisions included by a vote of 68-29. Earlier in the day, Senator Daniel Inouye of Hawaii cast the final affirmative vote on a procedural motion to limit debate that cleared the last hurdle to final passage as an honor to his long service to the Senate. The conference report accompanies H.R.2647, the underlying Department of Defense Authorization bill. The measure now heads to President Obama for his signature.

The hate crimes legislation gives the Justice Department the authority to fully investigate and prosecute bias-motivated crimes where the victim has been targeted because of actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability. President Barack Obama has vowed to sign the bill.

“We thank the Senate—indeed the full Congress—for passing the hate crimes bill, and especially those who provided strong leadership on this measure,” said NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell. “My heart is very full today as I think of families who have lost loved ones, of Senator Kennedy, who championed this bill for so many years, and also as I imagine all those who may be saved by this measure. I look forward to President Obama swiftly signing this measure into law.”

On October 8, 2009, the United States House of Representatives voted 281-146 in favor of a joint House-Senate “conference report” on a defense authorization measure that also includes provisions that would expand the definition of federal hate crimes to cover attacks based on gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, and military service.

The bill was introduced in the Senate on April 28, 2009 by the late Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA), Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), among others. At the June 25, 2009 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder testified that the Obama administration strongly supported the bill, stating, “The President and I seek swift passage of this legislation because hate crimes victimize not only individuals, but entire communities.”

NCLR has long supported passage of this key measure, assisting with drafting bill provisions, drawing public attention to the problem of hate violence and the need for hate crimes legislation, and providing grassroots support necessary for its passage.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Race, Sexuality, and Gender: HRC Releases a report

The Human Rights Campaign Foundation has released a report called, “At the Intersection: Race, Sexuality and Gender” It is a study aimed at gaining a deeper understanding about the complexities at the intersection of race, sexual orientation and gender identity.

Equality Utah has been thinking about these complexities a lot lately. How can we be more inclusive of LGBT people of color? There is as much diversity in the LGBT Community of Utah as in entire state of Utah. How we better embrace that diversity, and face this challenge head on? There is so much work to be done here in Utah.

Read the report

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Salt Lake City Releases a Report in Discrimination

Today The Salt Lake City Office for Diversity released a report on discrimination in Salt Lake City.
Here are a few articles about the report and yesterday’s press conference:

Salt Lake Tribune


Deseret News


The Salt Lake City Office for Diversity is recommending an inclusive ordinance that includes sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.

Thursday, July 16, 2009


We are hitting common ground running!

In the next three weeks, Equality Utah is hosting a series of Town Hall Meetings in and around Salt Lake County. An Equality Utah poll showed that 83% of Utahns support basic protections for gay and transgender Utahns. We are going to identify and harness that support starting with these Town Hall Meetings.

The meetings will cover the Common Ground Initiative and how we can all spread the word. Will you attend a Town Hall Meeting?

Taylorsville, Utah
July 16th
Taylorsville Library
4870 South 2700 West,
Taylorsville, UT 84118

6:30 to 8:00 pm

Sandy City, Utah
July 20th

Sandy Library
10100 South Petunia Way (1405 East),
Sandy, UT 84092
6:30 to 8:00 pm

West Valley City, Utah
July 21st

West Valley Library
2880 West 3650 South,
West Valley City, UT 84119

6:30 to 8:00 pm

Park City, Utah
July 28th

Park City Library
255 Park Ave
Park City, UT 84060

6:30 to 8:00 pm

, Utah
July 28th
Ogden OUTReach Center
705 23rd Street
Ogden, Utah 84401
6:30 to 8:00 pm

If you live in these areas, please attend the meeting closest to you, if not please attend any meeting. Bring your neighbors, friends, and join us as we Break Ground on Common Ground!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


The Senate is voting on the Matthew Shepard Act TOMORROW!!! CALL YOUR SENATORS!!!!

Contact Info:
Sen. Bennett
(202) 224-5444

Sen Hatch: (202) 224-5251

From our friends at HRC:

The Senate is poised to vote on the Matthew Shepard Act THIS WEEK. But our allies are reporting an avalanche of 300,000 letters and calls from right-wing groups trying to stop it.

Anti-LGBT leaders like Focus on the Family's James Dobson are now calling the bill "utter evil." They're even referring to it as the "Pedophile Protection Act."

With a vote on hate crimes coming any day, we desperately need senators to hear from fair-minded people like you.

It takes about 45 seconds to call each one of your senators – and each one of them needs to hear from you today. It's just as important for supportive senators to hear from us – they've promised to pass this bill, and they need to know we're counting on them to keep fighting.

So set yourself a reminder on your computer. Make the call on your way to lunch. Or stop reading this and do it right now. Whatever you do, click here to let us know that you made the call. Don't skip this step! It helps us track our progress.

We have the truth on our side – and we need you to speak the truth today to counter our opponents' outrageous lies. Please make your phone calls right now.

Then, please pass this email on to your friends and family.

Thank you for taking action.

Please take action on this VERY IMPORTANT legislation!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Inform. Invite. Include

Guest Blogger, Isaac Higham discusses the importance of youth involvement in the LGBT Equality Movement.

The LGBTA community in Utah, while not gaudy or overly intimidating in number is nonetheless impressive in the quality and character of the members of its community. From the fledgling gay-straight alliances at an increasing number of high schools, colleges, and universities to the heart of the community in Salt Lake City, one doesn’t have to search for long to find some of the most dedicated, motivated, kind, and sincere human beings around.

Some of my favorite people I have had the pleasure of meeting have been some of our straight allies. Some have a LGBT family member or friend. Others have had their lives touched by someone in our community. And some are allies simply because they disagree with the unequal treatment of people they may not even know or understand. Regardless of their stories or motives, their support is very valued and much appreciated.

We have made many positive strides in Utah from increasing the number of fair-minded candidates elected, to various municipalities deciding to support their GLBT employees. Equality Utah through its Common Ground Initiative is making progress in pushing for even more positive changes. The movement towards “A fair and just Utah” will push forward only with the continued efforts of us all along with adding more voices, gay and straight, to the cause. And here we come to an area where we have had success but, to steal a phrase from my upbringing, we need to raise the bar.

We each have softened and changed countless hearts and minds simply by continuing to live our lives in the respectable manner in which we always have lived, but I think that sometimes we lose sight of the incredible opportunity we have to actively work to increase awareness, especially when it comes to the younger generation; my generation.

This is not to say that we should not continue to vigorously try and influence elected officials and those in power or seek out allies of all ages, but as President Obama showed during his campaign, the younger demographic can be mobilized into a powerful supporting voice for a cause. I cannot begin to count the number of friends and acquaintances that have asked me around campus, or over a text message or facebook conversation, “What can I do?”

Even here in Utah, support for equality is strong among the youth. The problem is unearthing those sentiments that lie buried in the hearts of young people who simply don’t know. They don’t know you can be fired or evicted in Utah for being gay or transgender. They don’t know of the struggles couples have trying to take care of each other and their children. They simply don’t know.

I am reminded of a poem by Nixon Waterman that perfectly underscores the sentiment behind the effort for education on LGBT issues:

If I knew you and you knew me,
If both of us could clearly see,

And with an inner sight divine,

The meaning of your heart and mine,

I'm sure that we would differ less,

And clasp our hands in friendliness;

Our thoughts would pleasantly agree,

If I knew you and you knew me.

And once they know, most are immediately willing and committed to lend a hand and add their voice. The onus then falls on us to do the educating. Whether it’s supporting a youth GSA in its efforts to reach out to their fellow students, using blogs and social networks to inform and invite participation, or simply being more willing to include the younger generation. We each can do something a little better to involve and work with the youth.

The generation that will lead the world tomorrow can be invaluable in changing the world today if we only inform, invite, and include them.

Isaac is is a fantastic Equality Utah volunteer and a student at Utah State University, studying political science.

Friday, June 26, 2009

What's Right with Utah

Utah has an interesting political reputation, but Lisa Duggan has shown in her article "What's Right with Utah" that the Common Ground Initiative is real deal.

What's Right with Utah
By Lisa Duggan

"Forget everything you think you know about Utah. Yes, it's the reddest state in the union and the headquarters of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS). For the past twenty-five years, Republicans have had a virtual lock on statewide offices. Utah hasn't voted for a Democrat for president since 1964, and last year the state chose John McCain over Barack Obama by almost a 2-to-1 margin

But here in Salt Lake City, it's a different story. The city and surrounding counties are a lovely blue. The current and previous mayors--Ralph Becker and Rocky Anderson--are well-known progressive Democrats with excellent records on the environment, gay and civil rights, disability access and other municipal issues, and Salt Lake County, home to four of the five most populous cities in the state, went for Obama in 2008.

Then there's Salt Lake City's queer community, whose smart, creative and coalition-building strategies could provide a model for gay activists across the country". Read More

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

ENDA introduced in the US House of Representatives!

As many of you know one of our Common Ground Initiative issues is a Fair Workplace. Right now it is legal in Utah for people to be fired from their jobs just because they’re gay or transgender. All Utahns should have the chance to provide for their families without fear of being unjustly fired for reasons that have nothing to do with ability to work.

Today Rep. Barney Frank D (MA-4), introduced the Federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which would ban employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.

The National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) as well as the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) have both issued action alerts on this issue.

Visit their websites to find out how to contact your US Representative!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Federal Benefits are a Start

Some of you may have heard about President Obama extending some partner benefits to Federal Employees. Under this plan, Federal Employees can include their partners on their long-term care insurance and also take sick leave to care for their partners.

This plan is a step in the right direction; however it does not allow employees to share health insurance or retirement benefits. Below are a few articles about the plan and how it might affect some Utahns.

Utah's Gay Community: Federal Benefits are a Start
Salt Lake Tribune
June 18

Obama: More Benefits for Gay Workers Only One Step
Associated Press/KSL
June 18

Friday, May 1, 2009


We are thrilled to receive 4 Q Salt Lake Fabby Awards as voted on by Q Salt Lake Readers. Thank you! We think you are Faaabulous!

Most Faaabulous Political Group
Equality Utah
Oh come on. Do we really need to say that it’s Equality Utah when pretty much all of you voted for them? Well, OK, we just did. And their efforts towards passing the Common Ground Initiative seem like a faaabulous enough reason to us.
2. The Inclusion Center/ HRC (tie)

Most Faaabulous Group to Receive Donations
Equality Utah
Do we really have to explain why this is Equality Utah yet again?
2. The Utah AIDS Foundation

Most Faaabulous Story
Common Ground Initiative
During this year’s legislative session, Equality Utah’s Common Ground Initiative dominated QSaltLake for several issues and appeared regularly in every news outlet in the state. It’s no wonder, then, that our readers picked it as our most faaabulous story. Now if only we can get those bills passed before our next issue. Hey, we can dream, right?
2. The November March on Temple Square
3. Jacin Tales

Most Faaabulous Queer Leader
Mike Thompson
Equality Utah is really sweeping our awards this year. We wondered if their Common Ground Initiative had something to do with it, but then realized it was probably just Mike Thompson’s faaabulous haircut.
2. Valerie Larabee/Logan Brueck (tie)

Other politically related categories:

Most Faaabulous Politician
Sen. Scott McCoy
Although he has a faaabulous haircut as well, we think he probably won your overwhelming support for tirelessly fighting to pass his Wrongful Death Amendments bill that would let unmarried partners sue in the event of a provider partner’s death. That and anyone who can deal with LaVar Christensen without screaming is just, simply, beyond faaabulous.
2. Rep. Christine Johnson
3. Rep. Jennifer Seelig

Most Faaabulous Straight Advocate
Gov. Jon Huntsman, Jr. and Rep. Jennifer Seelig

He walked out on a limb and said that gays should have the right to get civil unioned. She authored a bill that would have given domestic partners rights of inheritance and medical powers. In the end, they’re both so faaabulous you couldn’t pick just one.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Equality Utah v. Sutherland Institute Debate

On Thursday, February 19th Equality Utah debated Sutherland Institute. The resolution debated:

The Utah Legislature should pass the Common Ground Initiative.
Equality Utah Opening Statement - Will Carlson

Sutherland Institute Opening Statement - Paul Mero

Equality Utah's First Question of Sutherland Institute

Sutherland Institue's First Question of Equality Utah

Equality Utah's Second Question of Sutherland Institute

Sutherland Institute's Second Question of Equality Utah

Equality Utah's Third Question of Sutherland Institute

Sutherland Institute's Third Question of Equality Utah

Equality Utah Summation - Senator Scott McCoy

Sutherland Institute Summation - Paul Mero

Questions from the audience:

Why not remove all references to "sex" in the law, and just refer to "household members"?

How is the natural family good, but the natural man bad?

Do advocates for gay equality dispute that the USA was founded on the bible?

Why not remove all references to "sex" in the law, and just refer to "household members"?

How should majority rule be balanced against individual rights?

Would anti-gay activists change their position if they knew orientation was innate?

Does religious opposition to LGBT people equal religious opposition to racial minorities?

Do you think gay & transgender people will go away?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Utah NOW - February 7, 2009

Check out Doug Fabrizio's Utah NOW program which aired on KUED Friday, February 6.

This week on Utah NOW we're exploring the fate of the Common Ground initiative. It's an effort to secure legal protection at the state legislature for gay and transgendered Utahns. Gay rights advocates hoped that a backlash over the passage of Proposition 8 in California would create an opening for the initiative...but it seems lawmakers are having second thoughts.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Can I get an AMEN?!

Well, the Southern Baptist Boy from Broken Arrow, OK showed up to the Common Ground march on Saturday, January 24th. When I took the microphone I'd only planned on giving a brief plug about staying engaged during the session. Well, um, uh, some of that good ol' fashion righteous indignation must have come over me. Can I get an AMEN?!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Round 1 ***Ding***

Yesterday the committee room was packed full with standing room only. In each corner of the room we could see blue, green and white “Common Ground” buttons. Thanks to all of you that came and stood for Common Ground! Packing the room was a victory in itself. While the results were disappointing, today we feel a renewed passion. We are pressing forward and will continue to seek common ground. Our focus is now HB 267, the Fair Workplace and Housing Bill, and it is not over yet!

We all heard the Eagle Forum and other groups spreading misinformation about “preserving traditional marriage,” and the “slippery slope.” You can watch their comments below.

[Opposition Testimony videos coming soon!]

Their messages about marriage are simply inaccurate. The Common Ground Initiative is about basic legal protections.

After public comment was over Sen. McCoy gave an inspiring summation of the bill.

The Common Ground Initiative is not about marriage. It is about basic legal protections for gay and transgender Utahns. We will continue to seek common ground, and a fair and just Utah.

There are still plenty of opportunities for you to get involved including a phone bank on Thursday January 29th at 5:30 at the Equality Utah Office. For more opportunities to get involved with the Common Ground Initiative please visit our calendar.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Shifting the conversation

The dialog around gay rights in Utah has been distorted since the passage of Amendment 3 in 2004, which defined marriage as only between a man and a woman. While marriage equality is an important issue for many gay and transgender Utahns, it is not the only issue we’re concerned about.

The fact that a gay person can be fired from his job solely because he is gay has nothing to do with marriage.

The fact that a transgender person can be denied housing for no other reason than she is transgender has nothing to do with marriage.

The fact that a lesbian employee does not receive equal pay and benefits for equal work has nothing to with marriage.

In years past, some legislators resorted to a “voters across Utah settled these issues with Amendment 3” argument. That’s not going to work any more. We’re shifting the conversation.

Yes. Utahns passed Amendment 3 to clearly define marriage but they did not intend to keep their loved ones and neighbors from having basic rights. These basic rights are the focus of our Common Ground Initiative.

Nearly 70 percent of Utahns know someone who is gay or transgender and results from our recent poll indicate the average Utahn actually supports providing them with basic protections. This fact is further substantiated with results from the latest Salt Lake Tribune poll as well as the latest KSL – Deseret News poll.

2009 is our year of opportunity. Our Common Ground Initiative, with its focus on basic rights, has attracted a broad base of support, including members of many faith communities, yes, including active members of the LDS Church.

In this legislative session, we have an opportunity like never before. If we are to seize this moment, if we are to move toward a fair & just Utah, we must each own a portion of the work. Don’t wait. Talk to your legislators, today. Talk to your friends and family members and ask them to do the same, now. There is Common Ground. Let’s each do something to secure it and stand on it.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Ready, Set, GO!

Equality Utah is thrilled to be launching our new website and we want you to be an active part in its ongoing success. So…we’ve included this blog.

We’ll be providing insights and updates to what’s happening in our quest for a fair & just Utah AND we’ll be posting pictures from all EU events. So, come visit us -- we’d love to hear from you as we go!