Too often, people whose experience with Utah consists mostly of catching Sister Wives or Big Love reruns think that our state is just some horrible, backward place where lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are nonexistent or so silenced that we might as well be. And too often, Utah makes the national news only when the LDS Church says something hateful about queer people or throws its weight behind an anti-gay referendum or two. That’s why Change.org’s naming of Equality Utah as one of 2010’s top gay rights heroes is so astounding. Last year, Equality Utah got 10 Utah municipal governments to protect all residents, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, from housing and job discrimination, thus giving ¼ of Utah’s population recourse against anti-gay and anti-transgender landlords and employers. By placing Equality Utah alongside such national headliners as Dan Savage, who founded the powerful “It Gets Better Project,” and the activists behind Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’s repeal, Change.org helped thousands of people understand just how big and important Equality Utah’s success was in 2010. Now if only the State Legislature would understand that, too.
It may have just begun seven days ago, but don’t let 2011’s wide-eyed innocence fool you; the General Legislative Session is just a few weeks away from opening. With legislators already grumbling about all our hard work last year, we can’t afford to be on the defensive. We’re going to have to fight hard not only to make more gains this year, but to protect the ground we gained in 2010. Whether lobbying on the Hill, helping homeless queer youth, calling on councilmembers to pass fair housing and employment ordinances, or just turning up when needed for rallies and protests, let’s all come together to make this another fabulous year for our community.