Unlike in years past, local gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender groups will not be kicking off this year’s General Legislative Session with a rally.
Rather, they will open it with an hour of music, inspirational messages and camaraderie in which legislators and the general public alike is invited to attend.
A Joyful Sound for Common Ground will be held in the Capitol Rotunda on Jan. 23 at 6 p.m. It will feature performances by the First Unitarian Church of Salt Lake City choir, a trio of jazz musicians who also call the church home, and the inimitable Sister Dottie S. Dixon, star of the KRCL Radio program bearing her name and the play The Passion of Dottie S. Dixon.
Although the evening shares a name with the Common Ground Initiative, a legislative push by statewide gay and transgender rights group Equality Utah during last year’s session, the evening is not about politics, said Brandie Balken, the group’s executive director.
“It’s coming together to celebrate our commonality, our community and the uniqueness that we share here in Utah,” she said. “It’s a display of respect and support for all residents within the community of Utah and their value.”
The evening is sponsored by the Utah Pride Center, Equality Utah, the First Unitarian Church of Salt Lake City, the Inclusion Center for Community and Justice, PFFLAG and the Utah Pride Interfaith Coalition, the latter of which has made the gathering its event for January. Members of the coalition — a group of gay and transgender-affirming churches, religious organizations and individuals — like chairperson Russ Gorringe have been involved in organizing a Joyful Sound for Common Ground from its earliest inception.
Gorringe said that the evening is a great opportunity for all Utahns to realize and celebrate the goals, needs and wants they share, rather than the politics that divide them.
“I really was excited when [Equality Utah] came up with the Common Ground concept over a year ago,” he said. “When I talk to people, whether they’re gay or straight, about the things that really matter the most to them, I’m surprised at how much we really do have in common. We have more in common than we have differences and we need to celebrate what we have in common and build those things instead of running around in circles and banging our heads against the walls of what we do differently. Our hearts are the same.”
“It’s gonna be nice, it really is,” he said of the evening.