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2010 in Review

In 2010 Utah’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community made significant gains (and suffered a few losses) on Utah’s political and cultural scene. Here are the highlights.

January

Utah AIDS Foundation Executive Director Stan Penfold is sworn in as a member of the Salt Lake City Council.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz introduces a bill to prohibit Washington, D.C. from legalizing same-sex marriage.

8: The Mormon Proposition, a documentary about the LDS Church’s role in passing Proposition 8 is a hit at the Sundance Film Festival.

On the night before the opening of the General Legislative Session, hundreds gather in the Capitol Rotunda for a celebration of music and an evening of speeches exhorting attendees to fight for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights during the coming months.

Just a few days later, however, Rep. Christine Johnson, a Salt Lake Democrat and openly lesbian legislator, announces that Republican leadership and Democrats running pro-gay and transgender bills had reached a compromise to table all such bills in favor of letting Salt Lake City’s ordinances that protect gay and transgender people from housing and employment discrimination stand. Her remarks spark outrage in the community, which is fueled by a Facebook post made by openly gay former Sen. Scott McCoy in support of the compromise.

Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon announces that he will run against Gov. Gary Herbert in November. Corroon, who is straight, is a strong supporter of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights.

February

Sen. Orrin Hatch goes back on his support for repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

Equality Utah hires Tika Beard as its new development director.

The Utah Pride Center holds a public discussion at the University of Utah to allow members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community to air grievances and concerns over the compromise to table all gay and transgender-related bills during the 2010 legislative session in order to protect Salt Lake City’s housing and employment ordinances that offer protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity. A number of attendees express anger at Senate President Michael Waddoups, R-Taylorsville, for saying that the legislature will take action against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people if they engage in “offensive” behavior.

A charitable auction launched in December 2009 by eBay, a gay and transgender-friendly corporation with a strong presence in Utah, brings in $15,000 for Family Promise–Salt Lake, a charitable group assisting families facing homelessness.

The University of Utah’s Tanner Human Rights Center holds a conference on the use of violence, intimidation and state authority to control sexual orientation and gender identity. All panels focus on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people, including queer youth.

March

Rep. Christine Johnson discusses the state of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights in Utah with a group of gay-friendly Mormons in a lecture at the University of Utah.

A group calling itself Patriots for a Moral Utah calls a press conference at Capitol Hill to introduce a bill that would forcibly relocate homosexual Utahns or to force them into rehabilitation centers. As the day wears on, it becomes clear that the bill and the group behind it is a hoax. Organizers later tell the press that they planned the conference to draw attention to, and criticize, Utah’s extremist and anti-gay politics.

The Utah Pride Center announces that it will hold a health fair focused on the health concerns of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer Utahns in conjunction with several health organizations.

A number of gay and lesbian delegates are elected at Democratic and Republican precinct caucuses throughout the state. Delegates in Utah have tremendous power because their votes determine which politician gets a party’s nomination.

The Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office files charges against seven individuals accused of assaulting David James “DJ” Bell and his partner Dan Fair in 2008, after accusing Bell of abducting two children from a neighborhood party. The charges range from first-degree felonies to class A misdemeanors. Four of the suspects appear in court for the first time this month while three are apprehended later.

By the end of its session, the Utah Legislature passes a few bills that activists say could help lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Utahns. For example, a bill opting Utah out of federal health care reform could be helpful to gays and lesbians because federal reform prohibits the transfer of health insurance to individuals’ same-sex partners. However, others are harmful to the gay and transgender community, such as HB 74, amendments to which deleted provisions in an earlier draft stipulated that individuals unrelated to a child by blood or adoption could qualify for visitation rights under certain conditions.

April

Salt Lake City’s ordinances that protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and straight residents from employment and housing discrimination go into effect. Sandy and Logan’s city councils enter into discussions with statewide gay and transgender rights group Equality Utah about passing identical ordinances.

The Utah Pride Center announces that comedian Sandra Bernhard and singer Martha Wash will headline the Utah Pride Festival, and that Sister Dottie S. Dixon will serve as Grand Marshall. Sister Dottie, an LDS mother with a gay son, is a drag character created and performed by actor Charles Lynn Frost. The Center also announces the addition of a transgender march, a dance stage and a 5K run to festivities.

A gay couple is attacked in the parking lot of Piper Down by six men who had been harassing the club’s clientele all evening.

The Utah Pride Center holds its first ever sex education conference for lesbian, bisexual and queer women as well as for transgender women and men.

Former school teacher and openly lesbian candidate Claudia Wright announces that she will challenge Rep. Jim Matheson for his seat in Congress.

After Arkansas overturns its ban on letting gay and lesbian couples adopt children, Utah becomes the only state in the Union with such a ban.

Park City passes employment and housing nondiscrimination ordinances covering sexual orientation and gender identity. Mayor Dana Williams wants to make his city’s ordinances tougher than Salt Lake City’s by not allowing religious groups to opt out, but he and the council later drop this idea.

May

Openly lesbian progressive candidate Claudia Wright forces Rep. Jim Matheson into a primary at the State Democratic Convention. Meanwhile, Sen. Bob Bennett is ousted by Mike Lee and Jim Bridgewater in the Republican convention just down the hall in the Salt Palace. Sim Gill receives the Democratic Party’s nod to challenge Salt Lake County Attorney General Lohra Miller, and all gay-friendly legislators, including openly lesbian Rep. Jackie Biskupski, secure nomination. Gay-friendly Republican caucus Utah Log Cabin Republicans endorses Gov. Gary Herbert’s bid to retain his office.

Rep. Christine Johnson announces that she will be leaving Utah in the summer after accepting a job as the executive director of Equality South Carolina.

Diana Schaffer is found not guilty of two felony counts of aggravated assault and one misdemeanor count of criminal mischief. After intervening in an altercation between a lesbian and a parking enforcement officer at the 2008 anti-Proposition 8 rally around Temple Square, Schaffer is accused of hitting two parking enforcement officers with her car and fleeing the scene. Schaffer maintains that she did not hit the officers, therefore there is no scene to flee.

Following an inquiry by the ACLU, the Washington County School District changes its school club policy to allow all high schools within its boundaries to form gay-straight alliances.

June

America Forever, a local anti-gay group known for its disruptive and emotional protests, disbands. Their dissolution is rumored to be at the behest of LDS Church leaders who are upset by the way America Forever’s actions reflect on the church.

West Valley City passes ordinances forbidding employment and housing discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Utah Senator Orrin Hatch draws criticism for remarks made during a campaign stop in Southern Utah where he said that gays and lesbians “don’t pay tithing, their religion is politics.” Shortly after, Hatch says that he intended the comment to praise gays and lesbians for their ability to organize and support political causes they found important.

The Utah Pride Festival draws 25,000, and Wells Fargo takes home the prize for best float in the Utah Pride Parade.

Summit County passes ordinances protecting its residents from housing and employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Activist Jacob Whipple announces that he is leaving Utah. Whipple put together a thousands-strong rally around Temple Square following the passage of Proposition 8.

At a Democratic primary election, Arlyn Bradshaw defeats Cal Noyce to win the party’s nomination for the Salt Lake County Council’s District 1 seat. Both are gay men, making this the first time in Utah history that two openly gay candidates have vied for the same office. Joel Briscoe wins the party’s nod to replace outgoing (and openly lesbian) Rep. Christine Johnson.  Meanwhile, openly lesbian Congressional candidate Claudia Wright loses out to incumbent Jim Matheson.

Logan City passes ordinances forbidding housing and employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

July

Will Carlson, former Equality Utah employee, announces his candidacy for Salt Lake City School Board. (He is narrowly defeated in the November election.)

Organizers announce that the Southern Utah Pride Festival is going on hiatus in order to gather funds and support of an LGBT community center in St. George.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender-friendly color guard the Righteously Outrageous Twirling Corps of Salt Lake City perform in the Denver Pride Festival for the first time. The group takes first place in Las Vegas’ Pride Parade.

The Utah Pride Center holds its annual Breast Dialogues, an evening of monologues about members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community’s relationship to their breasts and to breast cancer.

August

Taylorsville adopts ordinances protecting gay and transgender residents from housing and employment discrimination.

The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California overturns Proposition 8. That night, Utahns rally in celebration of the decision

Salt Lake County bans job discrimination against transgender employees.

More than half of Team Utah brings home medals from Gay Games VIII, held in Cologne, Germany. Among them are cyclist Margaret Douglass, bowler Larry Lee, two Utah women from an international baseball team and the Queer Utah Aquatic Club’s water polo team.

One month before the suicides of several gay youth catapult the issue of anti-gay bullying into the national media, Utah is rocked by three suicides of young gay men in their 20s. Their deaths launch a conversation about queer youth suicide in QSaltLake and in Utah’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community.

Rally for Equality speaker Richard Matthews calls for the resignation of Utah AIDS Foundation Executive Director Stan Penfold. Among his reasons, Matthews cites what he calls the “dismantling” of the foundation’s HIV prevention program, the cancellation of the annual Gay Men’s Health Summit and an insufficient response to Utah’s rapidly increasing rates of HIV infections, and he says that Penfold’s position on the Salt Lake City Council is distracting him from his work. Penfold says he is “surprised” by the call.

A sign for Café Marmalade, the Utah Pride Center’s in-house bistro, is vandalized with an anti-gay slur.

A much-publicized CNN poll finds that Utah comes in last in the nation in support of same-sex marriage. However, poll numbers indicate that acceptance in the state is slowly on the rise.

Gov. Gary Herbert hosts the gay-friendly GOP caucus, the Log Cabin Republicans, at a reception at the Governor’s Mansion, continuing a tradition started under previous governor Jon Huntsman.

September

Defense attorneys for seven men and women accused of assaulting David James “DJ” Bell and his parter Dan Fair in 2008 ask a judge to prevent the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s office from prosecuting their clients. The attorneys say that DA Lohra Miller had previously promised not to prosecute the alleged assailants. On the stand, Miller says she had initially promised not to prosecute on the grounds of insufficient evidence.

Iconic Utah gay bar The Trapp turns 20.

Students at Weber, Bonneville, Syracuse, Woods Cross and Clearfield high schools receive permission to start gay-straight alliances.

BYU pre-med student Cary Crall’s letter criticizing the LDS Church’s involvement in passing Proposition 8 is published in the church-owned school’s newspaper, then subsequently pulled from its online edition. In a statement, the paper’s editorial staff says it made an “independent decision” to take the piece down after readers complained that it was offensive.

QSaltLake editor and publisher Michael Aaron launches the Q Business Alliance, an organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer business owners, QSaltLake readers and members of the public can meet and network at a monthly social.

Utah Log Cabin Republicans President Mel Nimer announces that he will run for office in Senate District 2.

October

The Utah Pride Center holds its first Family Acceptance Conference, aimed at helping families become allies, rather than obstacles, to their lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer/questioning children. Family Acceptance Project Director Caitlin Ryan serves as keynote speaker. A day before the conference, a representative from the Trevor Project holds a workshop to help members of the community identify the signs of suicidal thoughts and help queer youth who are considering suicide.

LDS Apostle Boyd K. Packer draws a firestorm of criticism from lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender pundits, organizations and newspapers for his remarks during LDS Semi-Annual General Conference, at which he calls homosexuality immoral, compares it to an addiction and says that gay people can change their sexuality. Soon after, thousands rally around Temple Square in protest and a small rally is held in Ogden on the same date. National lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights group the Human Rights Campaign delivers a petition signed by 150,000 people to LDS headquarters, which called Packer’s remarks harmful and potentially deadly to queer youth.

Justice Vanguard, a fledgling activist group, interrupts the final debate between gubernatorial candidates Peter Corroon and incumbent Gary Herbert to protest Herbert’s lack of support for a statewide ordinance protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people from housing and employment discrimination. The group of eight, who did not submit their question before the debate, are escorted out by security.

The Cedar City Council declines to pass workplace and housing nondiscrimination ordinances that include sexual orientation and gender identity.

A social group for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer residents of the Uinta Basin and their allies launches.

The People with AIDS Coalition of Utah holds its 22nd Living With AIDS Conference.

Intermountain Healthcare, Utah’s largest health care provider and one of the state’s main employers, announces that it will offer health benefits to the unmarried partners of employees. In November, however, several workers are surprised and angered when they learn that the benefits will cost more than those offered to married spouses, and in some cases more than insuring a family of five.

November

After eight years, Jennifer Nuttall steps down as the Utah Pride Center’s Adult Programs Director.

Dozens of Utah organizations work together to present Transgender Awareness Month, which includes keynote discussions with national and local transgender rights leaders, an evening of monologues on gender identity and expression, and the state’s second annual Gender Conference. The month concludes with the observance of Transgender Day of Remembrance, an international memorial for people murdered in the previous year because of transphobia.

Arlyn Bradshaw becomes the first openly gay man elected to the Salt Lake County Council. Meanwhile, Log Cabin Republican President Mel Nimer loses to Democratic incumbent Ben McAdams in the race for the traditionally Democratic-controlled Senate District 2 seat in the State Legislature. Although allies to the state’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community including Sim Gill, Rep. Rebecca Chavez-Houck and Jennifer Seelig win or retain positions, others like Grand County Councilmember Bob Greenberg lose.

Murray City becomes Utah’s eighth municipality to protect residents from housing and employment discrimination because of sexual orientation or gender identity. MOAB becomes the ninth.

The Imperial Rainbow Court of Northern Utah, a charitable drag group that is part of the International Court System, celebrates its 10th Coronation.

Rocked by a number of youth suicides brought on by anti-gay bullying, local artists organize Different=Amazing, a night of theater, music and art celebrating difference.

The number of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and “non-straight” youth age 16–21 accessing resources for homeless youth decreases from 43 to 41 percent of all youth served. However, Volunteers of America, Utah notes that this may well be a temporary decline.

December

One of the biggest World AIDS Days in Utah history dawns on the state. It includes a University of Utah discussion series on current medical breakthroughs in HIV treatment, community panels on how to lower HIV transmission rates, and demonstrations against HIV/AIDS stigma. Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker and members of the city council issue the second annual proclamation recognizing the day, and the lives lost to the disease around the world.

An activist and grandfather living adjacent to a Springville elementary school draws the ire of some residents when he places signs in his back yard displaying messages in favor of open discussion on homosexuality and an end to gay suicide. The school district calls the signs “adult” in nature, but the city council allows him to keep the signs up.

After much debate, the Salt Lake City school district narrowly passes ordinances protecting students, faculty and staff from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity — though not gender expression.

Burglars steal four of the five computers in the Utah Pride Center’s cyber center. Thanks to an outpouring of donations from the community at large, however, the Center announces it will be able to replace the computers by January.

The U.S. House and Senate repeal the military’s anti-gay don’t ask, don’t tell policy.

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