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.

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.

Plan-B: Social Change Through The Arts

Since 1991, Plan-B has dedicated itself to creating a unique place in Salt Lake’s community for socially conscious and innovative theatre. Plan-B focuses on Utah playwrights and local talent to produce performances that reflect the community in order to elicit conversation, new perspectives, and to create a new form of understanding.

Plan B’s 25th Season is not unlike any other – it is full of incredible actors, playwrights, directors, and important social issues. This season the community can look forward to Booksmart, by Rob Tennant – a dark comedy about working retail over the holidays, underemployment, income inequality, job insecurity, and debt. Surely, anyone who has glanced at a newspaper since 2008 will know that the issue of economic inequality is one that impacts us all and dismantles the very notion a democracy and the possibility of anyone achieving the American Dream. This type of theatre shines a new light on social and economic issues – one that can only be shown on stage.

Also coming up is Kingdom of Heaven by Jenifer Nii and David Evanoff. Supported in part by the Peace & Possibility Project this is a production about the quest for self-acceptance in a culture focused on perfection and one Mormon housewife’s desire to do it in drag. Given the current political climate and intersection of LGBTQ issues and the Mormon Church in Utah, this play could not be more important. It is through productions such as this one where all in our community can learn people’s unique stories and perspectives, and provide a bridge to bring the community together.

For many years, Plan-B has told powerful stories through theater and changing lives. Jane and Tami are proud to support Plan-B and their ongoing efforts to bringing awareness to important social issues, and to use the arts to promote change.

Please go enjoy Plan-B’s wonderful season and support change through the arts.

YWCA of Utah kicks off Women's Policy & Advocacy Position

Jane Marquardt, Tami Marquardt, & Ann Burkholder

Jane Marquardt, Tami Marquardt, & Ann Burkholder

When women thrive, so too do those that surround them.  It is when women are safe, free, healthy, educated, economically secure, and are able to influence key decisions, that their strength benefits their families and their communities.

The YWCA in Utah has long committed themselves to the well-being of women, and provided support so women can flourish. The well-being of Utah women is fundamental to the health of our families and communities, and helps Utah to be more economically vibrant, educated, caring, and inclusive. In order to achieve these goals and support women to their fullest, the YWCA has created their first, full time public policy advocacy and outreach position in the organization working exclusively on women’s issues in 110 years. Tami and I are thrilled to support this position.

Since Utah has been recognized as one of the lowest performing states for women, the creation of this position is a great accomplishment. This position will develop the YWCA’s distinctive voice to engage and advance work for the well-being of women in Utah through research, education, collaboration, and advocacy.  It will help address the critical issues of Utah’s wage-gap, lower the number of women living in poverty, expand secondary and higher education opportunities, and promote safe relationships and marriages where a woman’s mental and physical health can thrive.  This work is deeply rooted in the YWCA’s historic identity and after 10 years of trying to have a more policy role in women’s issues, it is finally a reality.

We are proud to support the YWCA of Utah and hope that others will offer support as well.  We know that the creation of this position is long overdue and will help women have a unique voice in public policy and advocacy, something much needed in Utah.

To learn more about the public policy position or contribute to support its launch, visit www.ywca.org.

History of the Utah Pride Festival

Downtown Salt Lake City is buzzing with eager anticipation as this year’s Utah Pride Festival approaches. Held this week from Thursday, June 4, to Sunday, June 7, the celebration showcases our state’s proud lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community. Organized and managed by the Utah Pride Center, the event hosts a massive array of exciting and positive activities, including Utah’s second-largest parade, the Pride Parade. The theme for 2015 is Pride Is…, purposefully designed to encourage everyone to reflect on and embrace the meaning of Pride for them personally.

The Utah Pride Festival began in 1974 as a small, informal gathering in City Creek Park of proud residents who were ready and willing to celebrate their community. Joe Redburn and the staff of the Sun Tavern loosely organized it. In the decades since, it has grown to meteoric proportions and become a staple of the city’s annual calendar, serving as a bright and bold opportunity to come together, educate, and revel in the robust diversity of the community. These days, the Festival attracts over 35,000 participants - and that number grows every year! Nearly 1,000 volunteers will cover 1,400 shifts and vendors will staff hundreds of booths. The Pride Parade alone included 143 entries last year and drew about 25,000 spectators.

The 2015 iteration includes a number of exciting activities for LGBTQ community members, families, friends, and allies. On Thursday, the Community of Christ will host an Interfaith Service at First Baptist Church. The following evening begins with the Grand Marshal Reception. This year’s Grand Marshal is Janet Mock, the prominent advocate, speaker, and New York Times bestselling author. In addition to receptions, the Grand Marshal leads the Pride Parade. Afterwards, there will be poster making and rallies, followed by a kick-off party and Opening Ceremonies.

Saturday afternoon, the Festival Gates open at 3pm. Festival organizers have planned a number of “zones” for different activities and to cater to different visitors, including a SAGE Zone (for everyone), a Youth Zone, a Family Zone, a Gender Zone (to celebrate and support transgender identities), a Health Zone, a Pet Zone, a History Zone, and several more. At 8pm headliner DEV will take the stage. The rest of the evening is dedicated to a dance party. Sunday starts with a Pride Day 5k Fun Run at 9 in the morning, followed by the beloved Utah Pride Parade at 10. The Festival Gates open again at 11am, with entertainment scheduled (including headliner XELLE) until the Festival closes at 7pm.

The Utah Pride Center oversees the Festival, in addition to a growing portfolio of ongoing and annual services, events, and activities that support the state’s LGBT community. The Center evolved from the Utah Stonewall Center which was founded in the early 1990s.