Will Carlson Departs Equality Utah for Prosecutor’s Office

As of last week, a familiar face at Equality Utah is going to be a lot scarcer at the gay and transgender rights group’s downtown Salt Lake City office.

Recently Will Carlson, the group’s Manager of Public Policy and a practicing attorney with experience in a number of fields, accepted a job in his field. He will now be working in Chief City Prosecutor Sim Gill’s office as an associate prosecutor of infractions and misdemeanors. He has a law degree from the University of Utah’s S.J. Quinney College of Law.

“I’ve known Sim since he ran for [Salt Lake County] DA a few years ago,” said Carlson. “The job came up, and so I applied.” His last full day at work was Nov. 20.

Carlson has worked for Equality Utah in some capacity since 2004, when he volunteered for the group’s Don’t Amend Alliance, political action committee formed to stop Utah’s constitutional amendment banning gay marriage that was affiliated with Equality Utah. He served as an intern for Equality Utah after the amendment’s passage until coming on board as Manager of Public Policy in 2006. Since then, Carlson has assisted in constructing and lobbying for many of Equality Utah’s legislative bills, including this year’s Common Ground Initiative, four bills which sought to give gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Utahns such statewide rights as employment nondiscrimination and probate rights. From January to March he could be found at the State Capitol Building almost daily, meeting with lawmakers on both sides of the aisles. He also frequently served as Equality Utah’s media contact.

Unlike Mike Thompson, Equality Utah’s former Executive Director who departed earlier this year, Carlton will be staying on with the group as a volunteer on its legal panel, which consists of lawyers and legal students who have donated their time to the group. Here, he said he will help analyze bills Equality Utah wants to introduce on the hill as well as gay and transgender rights ordinances in a number of interested cities and municipalities. Equality Utah, for example, was heavily involved in drafting Salt Lake City’s ordinances forbidding workplace and housing discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The Salt Lake City Council unanimously approved both Nov. 10. 

Carlson said that a number of factors lead him to take his new job, including advancing his career as an attorney and the chance to give someone else a say in assisting the organization.

“It’s important for everyone in the community to have a chance to speak out,” he said. “I’ve had a great run, but it’s time for other people to raise their voices.”

However, those eager to fill Carlson’s shoes may need to note that some of his duties —and his job title — are leaving with him. This is, he said, because of the different strengths old and new staff members have brought to the organization.

“Mike was a really good fund raiser, and [current Executive Director] Brandie [Balken] is a really good at public policy work,” he explained. Because of Balken’s strengths, the group will be looking for a fundraising and development manager.  Those interested in applying for the job should call Equality Utah at 801-355-3479 for more information.

Even though he is excited for his new job, Carlson said he will miss many aspects of his former position.

“I’ve just loved the chance to talk to people and to meet so many amazing queer leaders in this state,” he said. “But I’m happy I’m still going to be around.”

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