Equality Utah to Unveil New Phase of Common Ground

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Equality Utah will be unveiling the next phase of its Common Ground Initiative—the push to secure more rights for gay and transgender Utahns—during this year’s Utah Pride Festival.

Initially, the statewide gay rights group created the initiative as a set of four bills and one state policy changed aimed at securing rights for gay and transgender Utahns. Touching on such things as fair housing laws and inheritance rights for same-sex partners, the Common Ground Initiative debuted during this year’s general legislative session. However, none of its bills reached the Senate or House floors for debate.

Since the end of the session, Equality Utah has broadened the focus of the initiative to target businesses and local and municipal governments as well as the state legislature. It is this next phase the group will show to the public during the Utah Pride Festival.

“We’ll be identifying target areas and municipalities we’ll be focusing on,” said Will Carlson, the organization’s public policy manager, adding that the group will also announce the times of some town hall meetings it will hold on the initiative.

“On some level people already know the legislative districts we’ll be focusing on,” Carlson continued, noting that many of the legislative committees who heard the Common Ground bills this year will have the same members in the 2010 session. Typically, legislative committees switch out their members whenever there is a presidential or mid-term election. So, barring any resignations, committees have the same Senate and House membership for two years at a turn.

 “[For example], for the fair workplace and housing bill, the committee’s going to be the same, so you’ll know who will vote for it in 2010, and you know [which legislatures to talk to about voting for it],” Carlson explained.

He added that Equality Utah’s booth would also distribute postcards and fact sheets about the initiative for festival-goers who want an easy way to discuss the initiative with legislators, neighbors and family.

 “One thing we haven’t had in the past is printed materials about the issues Equality Utah is addressing. We’ll introduce some of that at Pride as well,” noted Carlson.

And, of course, Equality Utah will be having some fun at the festival, too. The group will march in the parade with several elected officials they have supported as well as a contingent of nearly 200 volunteers and Equality Utah supporters — all of whom will march wearing Equality Utah shirts. Staff and volunteers will also slap Equality Utah temporary tattoos on festival-goers who want to wear their support for the Common Ground Initiative.

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