Lambda Lore

Missionary to the Mormons

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I want to write this issue’s article on one of my heroes, Lucia “Luci” Malin. Malin grew up in California in the Bay Area and received a master’s degree in range management from UC Davis in 1978. In 1981, while working in Oregon, she was inspired to respond to the Nation Organization for Women’s call for recruits to visit states that had not ratified the Equal Rights Amendment as “ERA missionaries.”

Luci Malin came to Utah “on a mission” expecting to stay for about three weeks. She came to train ERA supporters before moving on to lobby in other states. However, when NOW needed someone to stay in Utah because of the Mormon Church’s strident opposition to the amendment, she volunteered to serve the cause of equal rights for women and even stayed on after voters defeated ERA.

Malin was determined to make her adopted state a better place for women and decided to bring a grass roots approach to the women’s rights movement. In 1982 she joined a feminist collective and coffeehouse called 20 Jacob Rue, which provided books on feminism and lesbianism. After the collective folded in 1984, Malin returned to her career in natural resource management. She also found a way to further women’s rights in this male-dominated field: She became a reclamation specialist for the Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining.

During the 1980s, Luci Malin continued her work with Women’s Liberation, basically keeping the National Organization for Women going in Utah. She became state coordinator in 1983 and went on to become a national board member from 1985 – 1989. In 1988, Malin and other lesbian feminists created a Lesbian Task Force for Utah’s NOW that was also known as the Ruby Fruit Lesbian Task Force. It was named after _The Ruby Fruit Jungle_, a lesbian feminist book written by Rita Mae Brown in the 1970s (the title is a slang term for a vagina).

As director of the Utah Chapter of NOW, Luci Malin organized a state conference in 1988 which featured Molly Yard, president of the national NOW, as the keynote speaker. The following year, she formed the Utah Pro-Choice Coalition and organized a pro-choice rally at Liberty Park. More than 300 people attended the event. Malin has been a Pro-Choice Coalition member ever since.

Malin has also been a strong member of the South Valley Unitarian Universalist Society, joining the church’s board in 1989 and serving as chair of the board for several years.

In the 1990s, Luci Malin continued to advocate for women’s and lesbians’ issues. In 1991 she joined the board of the Rape Crisis Center (later renamed the Rape Recovery Center), and in 1992 she became the National NOW Lesbian Rights Committee chair. As a community activist, she joined with members of Gay and Lesbian Utah Democrats in 1994 in calling for the removal of Judge David Young for his anti-woman and anti-homosexual rulings. Utah’s NOW organized “judge watches’” on state jurists and asked volunteers to attend court hearings and take notes about controversial conduct or rulings.

Utah’s Queer Community recognized her in 1995 with “Diversity Is Great” Life Time achievement Award for all of her hard work. The following year Malin received a YWCA Outstanding Achievement for her more than 15 years at the forefront of feminist and gay rights causes — causes which also included serving as executive coordinator of the National Organization for Women, representing Utah women on the national board, becoming the regional NOW director, initiating the NOW Lesbian Rights Committee and serving in various capacities in the Utah Human Rights Coalition, the Rape Recovery Center, the Gay and Lesbian Community Council of Utah, and the Salt Lake Lesbian and Gay Chorus.

When asked why she volunteers so much of her time and has continued to do so over 25 years, Luci Main said, “It took forever, over 100 years, for women to get the vote — but it happened. I first became involved in the anti-war movement during the Vietnam War. I saw that we changed America. The huge up swelling and demand that the war be stopped succeeded; we ended the war. When people work together with a common goal, we make a big difference.”

According to a newspaper account, some 20 years after defeat of the ERA, Malin is still working to repair damage to women’s rights by the radical far right which include cuts in programs like Aid to Families with Dependent Children and Women, Infants and Children, the ailing health-care system, and the dearth of child care and job training for women seeking self-sufficiency. If a society is judged by how well it treats the poor, the United States is in trouble, she says. “We need to be more compassionate.”

Luci Malin was rightly honored as a recipient of the Dr. Kristen Ries Community Service Award in 2004. Luci is one of my heroes, and I am honored that she is also my friend.

 

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