The recently elected Salt Lake County Democratic chairwoman talks a lot about families. She’s concerned about the middle class’ ability to continue paying rising healthcare costs, handle every day bills and earn a basic, living wage. But Mary Bishop wants to make something very clear when she refers to working-class families.
“I would never try to define what a family is,” Bishop said. “I don’t have a narrow definition that all families look the same or that a family must be made up of one married mother, father and kids. The world just isn’t that simple.”
Bishop has been passionate about gay rights for as long as she can remember. While that may be from being exposed to a diverse set of friends through her acting career, Bishop said she just can’t stomach injustices that minority groups, like the queer community, face.
“When I found out it was legal to discriminate against people based on their sexual orientation and gender identity, I was shocked,” Bishop said. “Even in Utah, the basic rights of having a job and living in a home should have absolutely nothing to do with identifying as queer.”
Bishop said she is an advocate of full equality for all citizens across the board, in all areas.
“This isn’t a political statement. It’s a human statement and it’s so important,” Bishop said. “I support full, statewide non-discrimination acts to protect in the workplace and housing. I also support full civil union and marriage equality. The way the Utah Constitution defines marriage is a shame. I am in unequivocal support of marriage equality.”
Bishop said her open-minded approach comes from her eclectic background in business and her personal life. The actress went on to co-own a janitorial business with her husband. While still being involved with some local productions and industrial films, she was maneuvering her way through complicated tax codes and trying to deal with rising healthcare costs and the complications that come with trying to purchase health insurance.
“I am very passionate and interested in politics, but I would say my two biggest issues are ineffective government, as illustrated by, but not specific to, our healthcare system, and fighting discrimination,” Bishop said.
While she is straight, she said she could never have dated anyone that had a problem with gay people or in any way supported homophobic ideas.
“When I started dating my husband we used to go down to the Sun Tavern all the time,” Bishop said. “I told him that I would never date or marry someone who wasn’t totally accepting.”
While this is Bishop’s first major political office, she’s been involved in various campaigns in the past, including leading the campaign to elect Sen. Ben McAdams, who sponsored the statewide non-discrimination act last legislative session. Bishop was involved with the campaign to elect Barack Obama and she helped with the Fair Boundaries Initiative, which fought to have a non-partisan committee redistrict the state electoral boundaries.
“I am very passionate and I think most people are,” Bishop said. “I feel so strongly about making the world a better place for everyone and I’ve learned that so much can be done right here in the community.”
Bishop said she is an advocate for full equality and that when she hears statements about the disproportionate number of homeless youth that identify as queer, she is inspired to do all she can to help.
“We want to continue working with the Volunteers of America and other groups to provide as many services as we can for homeless youth,” Bishop said. “I can’t fathom how insensitive and terrible parents can be for throwing their kids out on the street for who they are. But we need to help those kids.”
Being a Democrat in Utah can be a challenge, and bringing together all the voices within the party can be extremely difficult, she said. But keeping the Salt Lake County mayoral seat after Peter Corroon retires and regaining the majority on the council are goals that are achievable if everyone helps to participate, she said.
“Sometimes getting involved is as simple as showing up,” Bishop said. “And we need everyone we can to get involved. From the Democratic headquarters to the Pride Center; show up and ask how to help.”