2011 in Review

From protests to Pink Dot, and Pride to queer prom, 2011 was a momentous year for Utah. Here’s a recap of the most influential incidents of the year.


Activist website Change.org named Equality Utah as one of the top 10 “Gay Rights Heroes of 2010” for their work in helping 10 Utah municipalities in passing nondiscrimination ordinances in hous­ing and employment that include gay and transgender people.

Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker and Utah Lt. Gov. Greg Bell joined national leaders in a call for increased civility in the political process. Following the assassination attempt of Arizona Rep. Gabriel Giffords, Utah leaders called for curtailing the political rhetoric.

Members of the virulently anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church held protests at the Sundance Film Festival and at West High School in Salt Lake City. In Park City the protest was held against a film called Red State, which is loosely based on the church.

A group of queer-rights protestors gathered on the steps inside the Utah State Capitol Building bringing attention to the need to pass statewide anti-discrimination legislation in a rally called ‘This is Our Voice.’ Protestors held signs recognizing the cities from which they hail to illustrate the need for equal protection around the state.

Utah polls dead last in support of gay marriage, only 22 percent, which is well below the national average. However, since 1994, that number nearly doubled.


A bill that would have allowed second-parent adoptions for straight and gay couples was killed in a Senate committee. Democrat Pat Jones voted against the bill prompting gay activists to call her a traitor and petition for her ouster.

Gov. Gary Herbert received the annual United Families Utah award for his opposition to civil unions. The so-called “Champion of the Family” award is given each year to someone who supports a conservative viewpoint of families and family structure.

After a last-ditch effort by Sen. Ben McAdams to move a statewide nondiscrimination bill onto the floor for debate failed, all gay-related legislation was killed. This included three bills sponsored by Rep. LaVar Christensen which were seen as threatening to Utah queers.

Victims of sexual assault can request their alleged attackers be tested for HIV under a new bill that cleared the Utah Legislature and was signed by the governor. The request would happen before a conviction, based only on probable-cause evidence presented to a judge.

The Utah chapter of the Stonewall Democrats elected Todd Bennett as the new board chair.

The Utah Legislature passed a bill changing liquor and beer service hours, increasing the number of restaurant liquor licenses and eliminating mini-kegs in Utah liquor stores, among a variety of other changes. The bill started a series of changes including re-establishing the ‘Zion Curtain,’ barring restaurants from visibly storing beer, wine and liquor.


The Ogden City Council unanimously passed two anti-bias ordinances to pro­tect against discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation in housing and the workplace. It became the 12th mu­nicipality in Utah to pass similar bills.

A transgender woman said she was stared and laughed at by employees of the Utah Driver’s License Division, and she was asked to remove her makeup before renewing her driver’s license. Regina Audette tried to renew her license at a Salt Lake City DLD when she was subjected to the mistreatment. The incident led to the resignation of the directors of Transgender Education Advocates of Utah and a series of meetings to discuss possible actions. 

South Jordan Republican delegates chose businessman Aaron Osmond as a replacement for outgoing Sen. Chris Buttars. Buttars, who repeatedly placed himself in the lime­light for his anti-gay and racist re­marks, announced his retirement at the end of the legislative session. He served in the Senate for 10 years, the minimum requirement to receive health coverage from the state for the rest of his life. He has suffered from a variety of ailments, including diabetes.


The Utah Pride Center sponsored a Youth Empowerment Summit for all gay and al­lied youth, attracting dozens from around the state. Hundreds of youth also attended Queer Prom.

For the second time in six months, the city council in Cedar City rejected two anti-bias ordinances that would protect against dis­crimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation in the workplace and housing.

A 20-year-old gay Utah man was at­tacked after leav­ing Club Sound. Jordon Corona said the assault was a hate crime. Corona was treated for a concussion and had bruises and cuts on his face.

Utah’s largest AIDS and HIV-assistance program to help obtain medications and other services closed its services to new applicants, said Mike Lowe, the AIDS Drug Assistance Program administrator. The program, which is funded by the Ryan White Part B funds from the federal government, received less funding than expected, and in order to compensate for the budget shortfalls, no new applicants are being accepted, Lowe said.  

Peter Vidmar, a Mormon, stepped down from his post as the chief of mission for the U.S. Olympic team in 2012 after reports of his opposition to gay marriage came to light. 

Health insurance benefits were approved for domestic partners of employees of the Salt Lake City School District.  The announcement came after the district changed the policy to prohibit discrimination against students and employees based on gender identity or sexual orientation.


Four people charged in connection with the beating of DJ Bell and his partner, Dan Fair, were sentenced  after pleading guilty to aggravated assault, aggravated burglary and rioting charges. Three of the defendants, Ricky Ian Peace, 34; Ieti David Mageo, 33; and Ietitaia Tavita Nuusila, 27, were sentenced to serve zero to five years in prison on all three charges; however, they are allowed to serve all three sentences concurrently. The fourth person, Lulu Latu, was sentenced to serve 365 days in jail, but 180 days of the sentence was waived. 

Utah’s Plan-B Theatre Company, and Utah Pride Center and Equality Utah co-founder Michelle Turpin, were selected as the Human Rights Campaign of Utah Equality Award recipients. The awards were presented at the HRC Utah “Be Part of Equality” Gala.


The 2011 Utah Pride Festival was the largest on record attracting approximately 28,000 people to Salt Lake City for the festival, according to the Utah Pride Center. With exactly 100 entries, the Pride Parade was one of the largest parades in Utah and the Best Float Award went to the Righteously Outrageous Twirling Corps.

After 30 years since AIDS was first detected, there are 33.4 million people worldwide living with HIV/AIDS, 2.7 million new HIV infections per year and 2 million annual deaths due to AIDS. Infection rates are still alarmingly high, especially in the queer people of color communities.

Utah’s first openly gay legislator Jackie Biskupski stepped down from her position representing House District 30. After purchasing a home outside her district, Biskupski was forced to step aside.


Jim Dabakis, co-founder of Equality Utah and the Utah Pride Center, was elected to lead Utah’s Democratic Party, making him the first openly gay head of a major party in Utah.

Brian Doughty was selected to fill the House seat vacated by Jackie Biskupski, Utah’s first openly gay representative, at the Utah Democratic Convention. Doughty is the only openly gay legislator currently serving.

In a letter from Mayor Ralph Becker, the date July 5, 2011, was declared National Civil Rights March Across America Day in Salt Lake City. The day was named in honor of Richard Noble, who stopped in Salt Lake on his march across the United States wielding a rainbow flag.

Gay and lesbian couples, including some from Utah, began marrying in New York on July 24 – the first day the law legalizing same-sex marriage took effect. 

The number of reported same-sex couples living together in Utah jumped 73 percent over the past decade, according to 2010 Census data. This came as the total number of Utah households grew by only 25 percent. The Census shows that the number of same-sex couples living together in Utah at 5,814, which is up from 3,360 in the year 2000.


The Human Rights Campaign kicked off its 17-city national bus tour in Salt Lake City. The tour, which was dubbed, ‘On the Road to Equality,’ focused on areas around the country where queer citizens do not have many protec­tions and rights, such as protection against bias in housing and the workplace.

Equality Utah celebrated 10 years of being the premier political organization in Utah with an Allies Dinner attracting more than 1,200 attendees. Former San Fran­cisco Mayor Gavin Newsom was the keynote speaker,and the original founders of Equality Utah were honored.

A poll released by the Human Rights Campaign indicated that a large majority of Utahns support laws protecting members of Utah’s queer com­munity against bias in the workplace, housing and against bullying in schools.  According to the poll, 77 percent of Utahns, and 73 percent of Mormon Utahns, want laws protecting against discrimina­tion in the workplace and housing.

More than 1,000 lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender amusement-park lovers attended this year’s QSaltLake Lagoon Day.

Utah’s queer community got a lot peppier with the introduction of the Salt Lake City branch of Pride Cheerleading. Valina Eckley, a veteran of the San Francisco branch of the PCA, started the local group.

After the brutal beating of a 20-year-old Salt Lake City resident outside Club Sound in Salt Lake City, Utah’s queer community was on high alert. Another attack in American Fork against a gay man inspired candlelight vigils and community meetings. Multiple fundraisers for Dane Hall were held around the state.


After nearly a decade of operation, Connexion.org, shut down its servers and closed down the site. Along with the dating service, Connexion included a community calendar and a section for queer-related news.

The murder investigation of a young, black, gay man in 1978 was reopened for investigation. Tony Adams was stabbed to death in his Salt Lake City apartment and no arrests were made in the original case.

Daniel Sever was arrested after he hid in the thrift shop, Our Store, in Salt Lake City, staying past closing time.

From Dec. 21, 1993 to Sept. 20, 2011 the U.S. military banned gay and lesbian service members from serving openly under “don’t ask don’t tell.” The repeal of the discriminatory policy was hailed by gay rights activists, however, transgender Americans still are not allowed to serve.

After more than three years, DJ Bell’s request to the Crime Victims Reparation to pay for injuries he sustained during an assault in his Salt Lake City home was granted.

The Evergreen International Conference held in Salt Lake City attracted hundreds of gays, lesbians and their friends and family. Evergreen strictly follows the traditions of the Mormon Church and teaches that homosexuality can be overcome and even reversed. The group is not officially condoned by the Mormon Church, yet one of its leading authorities, Elder Jay Jensen, was the keynote speaker and he gave Evergreen a stamp of approval.

Ricky Peace, Ieti Mageo, and Ieti­taia Tavita Nuusila, who were sentenced to zero to five years for the brutal beating of David James “DJ” Bell and his partner, Dan, in 2008, had their first parole hearings. The three attackers were sen­tenced in May and their parole hear­ing was held Sept. 29. Peace has a tenta­tive parole date of Dec. 31, 2013; Mageo is scheduled for Dec. 16, 2014 and Nuusila is scheduled for Dec. 11, 2012. These dates are dependent on good behavior and the completion of vari­ous evaluations and treatments.


A gala fundraiser to benefit the anti-violence reward fund unlike any seen in Utah raised more than $5,000. The event, sponsored by the Q Business Alliance, featured an Iron Florist competition, with some of Salt Lake City’s top florists producing arrangements onsite in a 30-minute time period.

In honor of National Coming Out Day, hundreds of Utah queers and their allies gathered at the Spring Mobile Ballpark to form an enormous pink dot. The Pink Dot event, sponsored by the Support. Love. Courage. council, included celebrity ambassadors Kurt Bestor, Hope Woodside and The Anser.

Eric Alva, the first American injured in the 2003 invasion of Iraq, celebrated National Coming Out Day with a visit to Salt Lake City. He spoke at Salt Lake Community College and at the Pink Dot event.

Utah’s redistricting efforts led to the com­bination and elimination of several Salt Lake City districts, including House Dis­trict 30, which is represented by Utah’s only openly gay representative, Brian Doughty. HD 30 will be combined with House Districts 26 and 25.

With a history of community involvement, Sen. Ross Romero, D-Salt Lake City, advo­cates for inclusiveness, compassion in gov­ernment and fiscal responsibility. Facing an impending redistricting that would pit him against a fellow Democrat, Romero said he reviewed his options and decided to make a bid for Salt Lake County Mayor.

The first annual Moab Pride Festival at­tracted more than 200 people to an aware­ness march and more than 500 to the festi­val at the city park.

The first Utah Undie Run smashed the pre­vious world record of a gathering of people in their underpants with 2,270 officially counted participants, although many more were in attendance dressed in costumes and other apparel. The Guinness Book of World Record committee certified that the event was the largest recorded gather­ing of its kind. The previous record was 550 people, set in England.

A portal for all gay Utah entertainment, GaySaltLake.com was launched, quickly becoming a landing pad for queers looking for places to visit. The site includes an entertainment calendar, photo galleries and articles.


Democratic state Sen. Ben McAdams an­nounced he will be running for Salt Lake County Mayor in 2012 on a platform of eco­nomic development, improving air quality and education. McAdams will be competing with Senate Minority Leader Ross Rome­ro for his party’s nomination.

Former U.S. Senate candidate and founder/owner of XMission, Pete Ashdown, announced he will campaign to be the next U.S. Senator from Utah, a seat currently held by Sen. Orrin Hatch.

Hundreds of people participated in the ‘I am Equal’ photo project in Salt Lake City. Participants had their photos taken after they were stamped with a temporary tattoo that reads, ‘I am Equal’ – a support for various causes.


Dozens gathered on the steps of the Salt Lake City and County Building to commemorate World AIDS Day. The Salt Lake City Council unanimously passed a resolution recognizing Dec. 1 for the continuing education to prevent HIV and AIDS as well as honor those who have died from the disease.

Saliva Sister and Utah Pride Festival staple Kristen Merrill passed away at the age of 60 from liver disease. To her many adoring queer fans she was known as Byla Saliva.

American Fork was the first city in Utah County to consider passing nondiscrimination ordinances. It would be Utah’s 14th municipality to protect against bias based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Related Articles

Check Also
Back to top button