Queer rights advocate runs for Ogden City Council

Queer rights activist, volunteer and politico Turner Bitton has announced his bid for Ogden City Council. His race will pit him against Doug Stephens in Ogden City’s Third District. We spoke with Bitton about his motivation for running, his political history and how people can help him in his bid. Those who would like to participate can call him, 801-564-3860 or email him bitton.politico@gmail.com. Visit turnerbitton.com for more information. 

Why did you decide to run?

I’ve been a member of this community since my partner, Christian, and I first met. In 2010 as president of the Weber State Gay-Straight Alliance, I worked with the city to pass a nondiscrimination ordinance.  That year, I watched the city’s administration and members of the city council stall passage of the ordinances time and again. It was then when I resolved to run for city council at the next election.

Another reason for my decision was because of OUTreach. Through OUTreach, many find a place of acceptance and warmth, and they deserve a leader who will create inclusive policies and who will work to strengthen the neighborhood we call home. If successful, I will have the distinct pleasure of representing the district that houses Ogden OUTreach.

As a member of the council I will work diligently with our various non-profits, our university, and members of our community to support the important work that organizations like OUTreach do. One of the greatest opportunities we have as a representative is to solve the problems of the community and the best way to do that is to empower every member of our community.

Are there any issues in particular that you’re focused on, considering Ogden already has anti-discrimination ordinances?

Ogden City has made great progress in recent years and that legacy can only be made stronger with greater protections for LGBT people. I’m proud that Ogden is one of many municipalities to protect LGBT people in housing and employment, but the next step is to protect LGBT people in public accommodations to further prevent discrimination against our citizens. As a councilman, I will champion legislation that prevents discrimination in public accommodations, and legislation that also creates a domestic partner registry for couples in Ogden City.

What’s your political history?

My interest in politics developed in high school and has been strong ever since. It has taken many forms and involved many causes but recently I have been heavily involved in the Democratic Party. I currently serve on the board of the Utah Stonewall Democrats and I am the secretary of the Weber County Democratic Party. Nothing has been more satisfying to me than being a part of the historic presidency of Barack Obama and seeing the many changes that Democrats have been working toward.

How can people help your candidacy?

At this stage in the campaign, the need for financial support is crucial. A donation of any amount allows me to get my message out to as many people in my district as possible. As I’ve been out canvassing my district, I’ve realized that the potential to win is very high. To get my message out will require financial resources to support my media outreach and campaign strategy. I would personally love to talk to anyone interested in my campaign.

How is the environment for LGBT people in Ogden? Do you think it’s improving?

Ogden is a great place to live and I believe that every day it’s  getting better. I’m concerned that so many LGBT people feel they cannot make a decent life here and must go to Salt Lake. One of my primary goals is to make Ogden a place where everyone puts roots down and becomes part of a welcoming community. The vibrancy and wonderful environment that Ogden provides is world-class and the policies of the city should reflect this.

Any last words for QSaltLake readers?

I would just like to say that electing fair-minded candidates outside of Salt Lake County is extremely vital. I’ve been active in this community and will continue to do everything I can support it. I believe my campaign is an opportunity for this community to elect one of its own in a city that has so much potential to be a welcoming place for the LGBT community. I would also like to thank all of those who have made my story possible. A few years ago I was a scared teenager struggling for acceptance and now I am with my best friend in life and living a dream I didn’t think was possible. This is the purpose of local government, to build strong communities that welcome all of us home.

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