Let your voice be heard

As the 2011 General Legislative Session gears up, one local activist is asking lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer Utahns to make their concerns heard on Capitol Hill.

On Jan. 24, Eric Ethington and several members of the local lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community will hold  “This Is Our Voice,” a rally, as Ethington explained it, to remind state legislators “just who it is that they work for.”

The rally’s focus, said Ethington, is to show legislators that Utahns overwhelmingly support nondiscrimination housing and employment laws, 10 of which were passed in Utah municipalities in 2009 and 2010.

“[O]n the final eve of these successes, Senate President Michael Waddoups announced that he would consider repealing everything that we have accomplished!” Ethington wrote on the rally’s Facebook event page. “Every city, county and municipality that has chosen to protect their LGBT citizens would see those rights stripped away!”

Waddoups, a Taylorsville Republican, told The Salt Lake Tribune that he saw “no advantages” to codifying housing and job protections for sexual and gender minorities, and that gay and transgender rights advocates were “trying to make a mountain out of a molehill.”

“I think that will be a real acrimonious debate — whether it [these protections] will be [expanded] statewide or prohibited,” Waddoups told the paper last December.

“The rally is designed to highlight the fact that our state legislators aren’t listening to anybody,” said Ethington, noting that 70 percent of Utahns (as per a Salt Lake Tribune poll conducted last year) are in favor of extending housing and employment protections to include sexual orientation and gender identity.

It will also draw attention to Sen. Chris Buttars. Buttars, who has previously compared gays and lesbians to terrorists and called them “the biggest threat to America going down that I know,” recently announced that he will run a resolution to put Utah schools under the control of the legislature, rather than school boards. His announcement comes just weeks after the Salt Lake City School Board amended its anti-bullying codes to protect students, staff and faculty from harassment based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Ethington also said that PRIDEinUtah, the blog and organization that he runs, will hold a number of citizen lobbyist trainings throughout the session “where our readers will head up to the Capitol to engage their legislators directly.” At press time, Ethington said that these dates would be announced soon.

“Also, with our legislators, never count out the possibilities of more rallies to counter their ridiculous rhetoric and ideas,” he added.

“This Is Our Voice” will be held in the Capitol Rotunda on Jan. 24 from 5:30–8:30pm. For more information contact Eric Ethington at [email protected]

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