Equality Utah, the local grassroots group fighting for gay and transgender rights, has a new face on its staff: Fabbie Award-winning QSaltLake columnist Ruth Hackford-Peer.
Hackford-Peer started her job as the organization’s Manager of Public Policy on May 1, roughly 45 days after the departure of former manager Will Carlson. Then unemployed, she put in an application hoping for the best.
“I really wanted to take a position that felt personally fulfilling so I was on a really picky job search and this was perfect,” said Hackford-Peer, who had become closely involved with the group during this year’s legislative session when she and her partner Kim advocated for a bill that would allow gay Utah couples to adopt children.
Although that bill (titled Utah Adoption Amendments and sponsored by Rep. Rebecca Chavez-Houck (D-Salt Lake City) was not heard during this year’s general session, Hackford-Peer said it is still part of Equality Utah – and her – agenda.
“My job is basically setting the legislative agenda and then working on those goals,” she said. “So for us the cohabitation restriction on the adoption law is a high priority. The antidiscrimination act amendment [which would prohibit workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity] is a high priority. There are others. There’s the wrongful death designee bill. Those are the things we’re working on.”
In setting Equality Utah’s legislative agenda, Hackford-Peer works with the group’s legal panel on these and other top-priority issues while working to educate legislators about gay rights (and about the fact that they even have gay and transgender constituents) so that the issues Equality Utah considers important “are alive the whole year, not just those 45 days” in the general session.
In many ways, Hackford-Peer said she sees her new job as a continuation of her interest in education. In the past, she has served as the Associate Director of Student Life and Director of the Cross-Cultural Center at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. In 2004 she also served as a trainer for the Massachusetts Department of Education’s Sfe Schools Project, which facilitates workshops on how to make schools safer for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students.
“I see this as another kind of education,” added Hackford-Peer, who also holds a Masters Degree in Social Justice Education from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. “Who could pass this up?”