As we’re on the verge of starting a new legislative session, queer activists are watching two measures in particular — a statewide nondiscrimination bill and a second-parent adoption bill. The latest attempts to move a nondiscrimination bill come on the heels of conservative activist Gayle Ruzicka promising to continue her effort to bar any equality measures.
At the annual Eagle Forum dinner and fundraiser, Ruzicka promised to fight queer rights activists and show her strength in the legislature. And with the amount of local and national representatives in the audience, it appears she does have an enormous impact on lawmaking. While she is neither elected nor particularly popular in Utah, Ruzicka has a very strong position with an extremely well-organized network of loud individuals who call their legislators, donate to causes and volunteer whenever asked. This is a small minority of Utahns who are directing public policy against the wishes of the majority.
But they’re not unstoppable. Despite a relatively simple path in the Utah House and Senate last year, a new sex education bill that gutted the very limited program already in existence, was vetoed by Gov. Gary Herbert. Office representatives said they had never received so many phone calls and emails demanding a veto and Herbert actually listened to his constituents, unlike the legislators who are dependent on the Eagle Forum for funds and support to make it through increasingly difficult Republican primaries and conventions.
With new energy, an openly gay senator and growing support for nondiscrimination measures, Equality Utah will be working with a bipartisan commission to move the bill forward. The bill will most likely mirror existing measures passed in nearly two dozen Utah municipalities, starting with Salt Lake City in 2009.
In order for the bill to clear a difficult committee battle and a general assembly where Republicans hold a super majority, Equality Utah can’t do it alone. We need to fill the inboxes and keep the phones ringing off the hook of all our representatives and senators. Whether you live in a Republican or Democratic district, a simple phone call and email from a few hundred people friendly to the queer cause could make all the difference in the world.
The Utah Legislature’s website is surprisingly simple to use and you’ll be able to find the email addresses of lawmakers in no time. You can also set up an email alert that will send you a message whenever a bill is being considered. And, of course, follow qsaltlake.com and like our Facebook page for all the latest information. To find your legislator’s email and phone number, go to le.utah.gov.
While Ruzicka and other conservatives are vowing a fight to stop equality measures, they are on the wrong side of history. It’s up to us how quickly we prove it.