LGBT

WAS THE “UTAH COMPROMISE” THE BEGINNING OF A BLUER UTAH?

Even in one of the reddest states in the Union, progressive legislation is resonating with Utah’s citizens and lawmakers. In the past two years, the super-majority Republican legislature has enacted laws that might be more likely found in our “bluer” neighbor, Colorado. Laws such as: drug enforcement changes that are more compassionate than hard-lined, stricter seatbelt laws, tax increases to fund transportation, and gay-rights protections. It is the latter issue that might be of most surprise in the deep red and deeply religious state, and an accomplishment honored by the American Unity Fund.

The American Unity Fund is a group dedicated to advancing the cause of freedom for LGBT Americans by making the conservative case that freedom truly means freedom for everyone. In May, Equality Utah and various Utah lawmakers received an award from the organization “In honor of bipartisan leadership in the campaign for freedom from discrimination for LGBT Utahns.” Brandi Balken, Sen. Jim Dabakis, Sen. Curt Branble, and Equality Utah were recognized for their work on Senate Bill 296: Antidiscrimination and Religious Freedoms Amendments. SB 296 was a landmark piece of legislation baring discrimination in employment and housing based on a persons gender identity or sexual orientation. It also allows for the expression of religious beliefs and commitments within the workplace as long as they are “reasonable” and not disruptive or harassing. The “Utah Compromise” received the baking of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, LGBTQ groups such as Equality Utah and the Utah Pride Center, and 85% of the legislature, passing in March of 2015.

 

Passing comprehensive antidiscrimination legislation protecting the LGBT community while balancing religious liberties has been an equilibrium other Republican-controlled states have struggled to find. Indiana, for example, passed a “religious liberties” bill that was seen as too broad and protected discrimination on the basis of religious beliefs. Within weeks of it being passed, Indiana’s governor had to sign a revised version of the bill because of the backlash to the law. Utah’s “compromise” is recognized by the American Liberty Fund as being the gold standard in addressing the concerns of both sides and finding a solution that is adequate and protects all.

Can more progressive legislation like the “Utah Compromise” pass moving forward? Is Utah no longer a deep red state, but becoming a little more pink? Arguably, yes.

In the past legislative session, issues such as medical cannabis and stricter hate-crime laws were debated and nearly passed one or both chambers. As recently as five years ago, the thought of these issues coming to the House or Senate floor would have been unimaginable or considered political suicide. As Utah’s population becomes more diverse and younger, though, ideological divides, at least on social issues, seem to be changing. In the upcoming legislative session, gun control legislation restricting someone with a violent crime conviction from obtaining a gun will be introduced, and looks like it will pass. A “death with dignity” bill to expand end of life options for those individuals with terminal illness will be reintroduced and looks to be gaining support.

The accomplishments of the LGBTQ community legislatively with the passage of SB 296 has opened the door for more compassionate, progressive legislation. The work of groups like Equality Utah and the Pride Center has changed minds and opened eyes to humanizing issues, not keeping them theoretical. Following this model, the chance for progress and changes to the laws with a focus on compassion for Utah’s citizens seems more real than ever.

Jane and Tami Marquardt are proud progressives and supporters of Equality Utah. Being a part of the signing of SB 296 has been a highlight in their personal and professional careers and they look forward to working toward a more equitable society for women and LGBTQ individuals through their charitable givings.

A MOTHER’S DREAM FOR HER DAUGHTER AND HER CHURCH

Kate Kendell was born in Utah. She was born into a family that belongs to the LDS Church. And she was born gay. She herself left the Church at an early age, but never in any official capacity. She didn’t mind being associated with it, she just didn’t practice the faith anymore. That changed in late 2015.

Kendell came out to her deeply religious mother at the age of 21. Fearing for the worst, she was relieved to find her mother’s loving touch as she grabbed her hand, telling her all that matters is that she is happy. In the years that followed, Kendell remained in Utah, graduating law school at the University of Utah in 1988. Her mother would say with regret how difficult it was to be gay in Mormon culture, but never wavered in her devotion to her Church or in her love for her daughter. “God gave me you, and He gave me my faith. These are great blessings; I love both. He must have a plan.”

By 1996, Kate Kendell was the executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR). The organization’s work has been in the middle of the national debate on LGBTQ rights, civil rights, and justice. She and her spouse, Sandy, were able to enjoy the fruits of their labor when in 2008, California legalized same-sex marriage. If her mother had still been alive, she knows she would have been crying tears of pure joy.

Growing up, and even as she became a professional, Kendell didn’t put much thought into the fact she was still “on the books” as being a member of the LDS Church; an entity that had spent exorbitant amounts of money to combat equal rights for same-sex couples. She saw the very conservative religion was coming around to becoming more accepting to the LGBTQ community. During the Utah Legislative Session in early 2015, Church leaders and LGBTQ advocates came together to pass an antidiscrimination/religious freedoms bill, SB 296. Kendell even had an LDS church leader approach her, apologizing for the Church’s involvement in supporting California’s Proposition 8. She knew it was becoming the Church her mother envisioned.

Her disregard for remaining a member of the LDS Church changed in November of 2015, however. Policy changes to “Handbook 1,” a guide for Church leadership, took hard-line stances against same-sex couples and their children. The new changes would prohibit children of same-sex couples from baptism, name blessing, and mission calls unless approved by the faith’s top leaders, or unless they disavowed their parents after they turned 18. This came as a shock to Kendell and Mormons world-wide after what seemed like the Church’s softening on LGBTQ issues. “I can’t help but think how crushing this news is to everyone who had begun to believe that they could both love their church and love themselves or their LGBT family.” In the wake of this proclamation, Kendell sent a letter to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints asking for the removal of her name from Church records.

The LGBTQ community, and Kendell herself, have received an outpouring of support from people, Mormon and non, since the changes. A text from her devout LDS sister summed up the sentiment of thousands of faithful Mormons, “I’ve been very sad all day since I heard of the Church’s pronouncement on the children of same-sex marriages. I feel like we are going backward when I thought we were moving forward.”

Knowing there is a strong commitment for equality from within the Church keeps her hopeful for the future. Her mother taught her the power of love and acceptance as the path to vanquishing fear and intolerance. Kendell knows the fight continues.

Jane and Tami Marquardt are proud supporters of the NCLR. To learn more or to donate, please visit www.nclrights.org.

Welcome Carol Gnade - Utah Pride Center's New Executive Director

Going back to 1991, Carol Gnade went from a visiting skier to Utah activist overnight. Gnade was on a vacation from Wisconsin when she read about House Bill 171 , an anti-abortion bill that would have banned all abortions in Utah, except to save the mother’s life. Outraged, she called the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah to see how she could help fight the legislature. But what began as a phone call ended up launching a long illustrious career as a social activist in Utah.

In 1993, Gnade took over as the Director of the ACLU of Utah. Her success includes fighting to end torture-restraint of prisoners, advocating for East High School students’ right to have a gay-straight alliance club, defending a Spanish Fork High teacher who was fired for discussing sexual orientation, and a wide variety of other causes affecting the lives of Utahns. She retired from the ACLU in 2002.

After a years-long hiatus to be with family, Carol Gnade is back to lead the fight for civil liberties and equality as Executive Director of the Utah Pride Center. Her years of experience and string of success with the ACLU made her a unanimous pick to take the helm of the Pride Center.

Today marks the beginning of the Pride Festival, running June 3 – 5. Salt Lake is celebrating the 41st anniversary of the Utah Pride Festival, the biggest and most public event of the Utah Pride Center. To learn more about Carol Gnade or Pride Center events, services, or resources, visit the utahpridecenter.org. More information on the Pride Festival can be found at utahpridefestival.org.

Peace & Possibility Lecture Series celebrates one-year anniversary!

February 17, 2016, marked the one-year anniversary of the Peace and Possibility Lecture Series at Weber State University. The series began with a donation to Weber State's LGBT Resource Center. In addition to creating a new home for the LGBT Resource Center on campus, the gift established the Peace & Possibility Lecture Series at Weber State. The series looks to bring LGBT leaders to Weber State’s campus to provide cultural opportunities, cultivate an ally community, and further develop an atmosphere of “welcomeness” for all students. Over its first year, the LGBT Resource Center held a screening of “For the Bible Tells Me So” and co-sponsored a convocation speech by Janet Mock for Transgender Awareness Month.

A film by Dan Karslake

A film by Dan Karslake

“For the Bible Tells Me So” is an award-winning documentary examining the chasm between gays and lesbians and Christianity. Following the lives of five Christian families, the documentary details the stories of those families upon the realization of having a gay child. “For the Bible Tells Me So” offers clarity, understanding, and is viewed as a healing tool for those caught in the battle between religion and sexual identity. Director Dan Karslake is currently working on a follow-up to the film called “For We Know Not What We Do.”

 


Janet Mock, transgender author and advocate

Janet Mock, transgender author and advocate

Janet Mock is the author of the New York Times best-seller “Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love, & So Much More.” She also frequently lectures on college campuses and has appeared on programs such as The Colbert Report and Piers Morgan. Janet looks at the exploration of gender identities and experiences. Not only does she explore these issues with audiences, but she also works diligently to promote awareness of transgendered rights.

For 2016, Jayson Stokes, director of the LGBT Resource Center, is working on a big roll out for the Peace & Possibility Lecture Series. Along with speakers and hosting events, Stokes plans to bring a Social Justice based performing arts group to campus. Fostering safe spaces and facilitating tough discussions is the goal of the series and Resource Center. Stay tuned for updates on the Peace & Possibility Lecture Series’ second year!

Kristin Reis & Maggie Snyder

The story of Kristin Ries and Maggie Snyder is one of hope, inspiration, heartbreak, and love.  While many of those whom they cared are no longer with us, their work and commitment to support those with HIV/AIDS will forever be remembered and honored in the new HIV/AIDs archive.  With special thanks to many in the community, Kristin Ries and Maggie Snyder’s story is chronicled in a new oral history and special collections at the University of Utah. This permanent collection marks an important commemoration of those we have lost to AIDs and honor those who have treated and helped those suffering from AIDS.

Due to stigma and a general misunderstanding of AIDs, many doctors and hospitals refused to treat HIV/AIDs patients. This did not apply however, to Dr. Kristin Ries and Maggie Snyder. They were the first medical professionals to treat patients affected by HIV/AIDS in Utah. Not only did they treat those affected, they became part of the patient’s support system. It was not uncommon for Kristin and Ries to spend weekends caring for and holding the hand of their patients. They were more than just healthcare providers; they were friends and family to these individuals.

“When we came to the University of Utah in 1994, AIDS was an epidemic and people were truly afraid. There was so much discrimination against AIDS patients, and their need for treatment was so great, because we were the only ones in Utah treating them – so Maggie and I made house calls 24/7.”
- Dr. Kristin Ries.

The naming celebration was a huge success and attracted scholars, members of the community, healthcare workers, and more. The collection provides a historical context and a summation of the medical and social impacts of the disease on Utah in the 1980s and 1990s.  It is important to remember the contributions of these two amazing women, and the many of people they helped.  Tami and Jane Marquardt are privileged to support and honor the important work of these two remarkable women and the history of HIV/AIDs in Utah.

Director Dan Karslake: Back in SLC

Acclaimed Director, Dan Karslake, made his way back to Salt Lake City.

Dan Karslake (with DP Amy Bronson) shooting an interview with John and Margi Dehlin in their home in Logan, UT

Dan Karslake (with DP Amy Bronson) shooting an interview with John and Margi Dehlin in their home in Logan, UT

Dan Karslake (with DP Amy Bronson) shooting an interview with John and Margi Dehlin in their home in Logan, UT

Dan’s documentary For The Bible Tells Me So premiered at Sundance in 2007 and was an exploration of the intersection between religion and homosexuality in the U.S. and how the religious right has used its interpretation of the Bible to stigmatize the gay community. This documentary swept up countless awards and recognition, and raised awareness to the damaging effects of how the religious right’s efforts to suppress homosexuality can be extremely damaging to LGBTQ individuals.

Margi & John Dehlin talk about their journey to excommunication for the film, "For We Know Not What We Do".

Margi & John Dehlin talk about their journey to excommunication for the film, "For We Know Not What We Do".

Even though the recent Supreme Court ruling legalized same sex marriage, there is still a long way to go in changing the hearts and minds of Americans, especially those in the religious right. Eight years after the release of his film, Dan is still receiving questions about the stories of those in the film – this in addition to the recent ruling motivated Dan to make another film, entitled For We Know Not What We Do. Dan’s new film delves deeper into the intersection of religious freedom and the religious right and includes additional personal stories from LGBTQ individuals and their families. We were thrilled to host Dan as he traveled back to Salt Lake City from Berlin to continue his important work.

Kate Kelly, founder of Ordain women, spoke to "For We Know Not What We Do" about her advocacy for the ordination of women within the LDS church.

Kate Kelly, founder of Ordain women, spoke to "For We Know Not What We Do" about her advocacy for the ordination of women within the LDS church.

This documentary played a large role in raising awareness about the complex relationship between religion and homosexuality—it also raised awareness about the danger many young LGBTQ individuals are in if they are forced to change. LGBTQ young adults have a much higher rate of suicide than heterosexual youths, making Dan’s work critical to creating and environment where LGBTQ individuals can thrive and live without fear of alienation.

The arts play a critical role in raising public awareness and advocating for social justice, and we encourage everyone to not only support the arts, but also to support a society where LGBTQ individuals do not have to face shame from their families or the public at large. Please watch his film, and get involved with the cause.