Split decision among LBGT leaders in SLC mayor’s race

Endorsements are part of any political campaign. The thought is that elected officials, activists and cognoscenti supporting a candidate must know something. If you were hoping for a clean decision in the Salt Lake City Mayor’s race between Mayor Ralph Becker and challenger Jackie Biskupski , you are hoping in vain.

In the Mayor’s Corner are a bevy elected officials, LGBTQ community activists, stalwarts and donors. In Jackie’s corner, well much the same.

In an op ed in the Salt Lake Tribune September 27, the following endorsed Mayor Becker:

  • Stan Penfold, executive director of the Utah AIDS Foundation and Salt Lake City Council District 3 representative;
  • Brandie Balken executive director of Equality Utah from 2009 to 2014
  • Bruce Bastian , member of the Human Rights Campaign board of directors, philanthropist and leader in the LGBTQ community
  • Jane and Tami Marquardt, long-time lesbian activists and founders of the Peace and Possibility Project
  • Mike Thompson, executive director of Equality Utah from 2005 to 2009
  • Donna Weinholtz, former board chair of EU and proud member of the Capitol 13
  • Terry Kogan, University of Utah law professor and former board member of EU, UPC, and many others.

One week earlier a group of LGBT leaders stood on the steps of the City Building and endorsed Jackie, among the many were:

  • Utah State Senator James Dabakis
  • Salt Lake County Councilman Arlyn Bradshaw
  • Restore our Humanity Chair Mark Lawrence
  • Becky Moss of Stonewall Democrats
  • Dr. Kristin Reis, doctor for HIV patients for decades
  • Jared Ruga, up-and-coming young activist

Not among the endorsers of either candidate was the current leadership of Equality Utah. They had just issued their endorsement and they endorsed both candidates.

The Tribune Op Ed endorsing Becker said the endorsement was because, “No public official can claim more tangible success in advancing equality for Utah’s LGBTQ residents than a straight ally: Mayor Becker. The mayor has consistently shown the leadership to propose and successfully follow through on multiple civil rights advancements. Despite the prospect of losing support among some residents, he has been steadfast and courageous in putting his political career on the line.”

They cited his activity in the state legislature and as Mayor that have been specific policy wins for LBGTQ:

  • Mayor Becker established Utah’s first mutual commitment registry in 2008. Allowing LGBTQ individuals and others to record their domestic partnership, qualifying as spouses for health coverage and other benefits
  • Mayor Becker quickly followed up by extending benefits to the same sex partners of City employees
  • In 2009 and 2010 Mayor Becker proposed and ordinances prohibiting employment and housing discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity
  • Mayor Becker created a series of “Dialogues on Discrimination”

Jackie’s supporters cited the personal journey of the candidate as their reason for support:

Several endorsers spoke at a Sunday morning press conference that Biskupski, the first openly gay woman ever elected to the Utah House, “can bring her unique perspective and more inclusiveness to city government.”

Dabakis said, “There are a lot of people… that don’t feel a part. They feel as though there is a cap on their possibility in life and one of the reasons I’m voting for Jackie Biskupski is because she represents so many in our state that aren’t represented yet. Not just about being a lesbian and being a single mother and being a woman, but to represent all of those in our city and in our county and in our state that feel as though they’re voiceless, and their perspective is not heard.”

Bradshaw noted Jackie’s tenure in the Utah Legislature inspired him. “It filled me with hope that my sexuality was not a barrier to the things that I wanted to accomplish.”

He related that he meet Biskupski as an intern during her tenure as a state lawmaker and was impressed with her “effectiveness working with that body which, as we know, is not always the most amiable to our causes.” Biskupski later helped Bradshaw during his successful 2010 bid for County Council.

Mark Lawrence, of Restore Our Humanity, said that “Becker’s two terms are enough.”

So, to some it may be assumed that a popular lesbian candidate would have the backing of the general LGBT community, but it turns out the community is split between the two candidates.

Next month may be an interesting election after all.

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