Feature Stories

2016 in review

January 2016

Biskupski meets with LDS Church leaders

Mayor-elect Jackie Biskupski met with LDS Church leaders for the first time to discuss local issues such as homelessness and air quality. Not on the agenda was a discussion on the church’s new policies regarding same-sex couples and their children.

Biskupski, who defeated incumbent mayor Ralph Becker in November, met briefly with Elder D. Todd Christofferson, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and Presiding Bishop Gérald Caussé.

Carol Gnade named acting director of Utah Pride Center

Former ACLU of Utah director and Women’s Red Rock Music Festival founder Carol Gnade was named acting director of the Utah Pride Center, replacing Marian Edmonds-Allen who resigned after a short tenure.

UPC Board President Kent Frogley said that Gnade is a good fit for the job.

NBA gets gayer

Bill Kennedy, a top NBA referee, has come out as gay after Sacramento Kings guard Rajon Rondo uttered a homophobic slur during a game.

February 2016

First common-law ruling for same-sex couple is now legal precedent in Utah

A case involving a Utah lesbian couple who lived together as if they were married — including having a child, having matching rings, and being seen by both families as a couple — but the couple never legally married was the first test of equality in common-law marriage in the state.

Plaintiffs Nicki Bidlack and Sara Clow were together for eight years until Clow died suddenly in September, 2014 of injuries sustained in a car accident on Interstate 15.

The judge ruled that Clow’s name was to be added to their child’s birth certificate, ensuring that he would have claim to her estate and death benefits. His decision is believed to be the first to recognize a common-law marriage between two people of the same sex in Utah.

Utah Pride Center re-imagining itself under new board, executive director

It’s been a tough several years at the Utah Pride Center, and incoming board president Michael Ramon Aguilar is excited to take on the job of evaluating and re-imagining what the Center’s future will be.

His first announcement is the board’s decision to bring interim director Carol Gnade on as a permanent full-time executive director.

The board also brought on five new members, adopted a new vision statement, and a new mission statement. The board went through the group’s bylaws and made many revisions relating to increasing transparency to the community.

Salt Lake City on ‘Advocate’s’ Queerest Cities list again

The Advocate unveiled its seventh annual “Queerest Cities in America” list and once again, Salt Lake City takes among the top honors. While locales such as New York and West Hollywood are widely known to be LGBT-friendly, this list spotlights some unexpected cities not afraid to fly their LGBT-friendly flags.

The Advocate noted last year’s election of the city’s first openly gay mayor, Jackie Biskupski, Janet Jackson stopping here on her Unbreakable tour, LGBT films available through the Utah Film Center, the Damn These Heels film festival, and Utah’s annual transgender conference, Genderevolution.

March 2016

Drug addiction program specifically for LGBT people starts in Salt Lake

The program is a rarity in the United States. Only 10 programs that are entirely based around the LGBT community exist in the country. The others are all in large coastal cities.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anton Scalia dies

United States Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, well known to LGBT people for his anti-gay positions in landmark cases, dies. Scalia, 79, was found dead at the Cibolo Creek Ranch, a resort near Marfa while on a quail hunting trip.

Scalia was arguably the most conservative voice on the high court and was a reliable opponent of LGBT equality.

April 2016

Utah Legislative Session wrap-up

Utah’s legislature had several proposals addressing issues such as marriage equality, same-sex adoption, hate crimes, and attempts to find ways to ignore the Supreme Court about “domestic relations within the state.” Only the hate crimes measure achieved a floor vote.

The Supreme Court delivers a win for gay adoption

Most front-page Supreme Court stories involve fraught cases, closely divided votes and biting dissents. But the justices achieve unanimity much more often than they find themselves split 5–4 (or this spring, with their depleted bench, 4–4) and occasionally those unanimous rulings are big news. Such is the case with V.L. v E.L., an interstate dispute involving an argument between two women who were sweethearts for nearly 17 years and co-parents for 13 years before their falling out in 2011. In an unsigned six-page “per curiam” ruling, the Supreme Court, without dissent, upbraided the Alabama Supreme Court for failing to honor a neighbor state’s adoption order that gave V.L. and E.L. joint custody of their children nine years ago.

Salt Lake City tops LGBT growth in country over 15 years

ConsumerAffairs.com analyzed U.S. Census data and Gallup polling information to model the movement of the LGBT community from 1990 to 2014. The overall trend is striking. In 1990, the LGBT population was concentrated in coastal metropolitan areas and other safe havens — San Francisco, New York City, Seattle and Atlanta. By 2014, LGBT hot spots cropped up in some seemingly unlikely places: Salt Lake City, Louisville, KY, Norfolk, VA, Indianapolis, and other red-state cities.

May 2016

9th South in Salt Lake is now Harvey Milk Blvd

The Salt Lake City Council unanimously voted to make 9th South, from 9th West to 11th East, Harvey Milk Boulevard, at least honorarily. The stretch of road encompasses the 9th & 9th business district, which had revitalized in the 1980s by gay-owned businesses including Cahoots Cards & Gifts, Twigs Flower Shop and The Coffee Garden, as well as the up-and-coming Central Ninth District, which is also attracting lesbian, gay and bisexual entrepreneurs. The new VOA Homeless Youth Resource Center, Club Try-Angles and Off-Trax also call the new Harvey Milk Boulevard home.

March Madness has its gay on

Derrick Gordon, 24, made history as the only out player to ever compete in the NCAA tournament.

Vatican boots Kim Davis supporter

The Vatican replaced the ambassador to the United States, who arranged the meeting between Pope Francis and anti-gay Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis. Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò will leave the position of apostolic nuncio, the equivalent of an ambassador.

Utah Pride Center starts Survivors of Suicide support group

Utah ranks 4th highest in suicides in the United States. In the first months of 2016, over 150 Utahns took their own lives. Like most suicide statistics, it is difficult to identify the specific demographics of the persons committing suicide, let alone the reasons for it.

Knowing that there are numerous factors that lead to suicide, and that queer youth are four times more likely to attempt or commit suicide, UPC began to research ways to provide a resource for those in need of support. Key staff attended a training at the Didi Hirsch Suicide Prevention Center in California. They then developed the first and only suicide prevention program in the nation that is specific to the needs of the LGBTQ community. The program, Survivors of Suicide Attempts (SOSA), will offer suicide survivors and those contemplating suicide a safe, welcoming and nonjudgmental place to share their experiences.

June 2016

Utah leaders react to federal directive on trans* students

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert (R) called an edict from the Obama Administration on inclusion of transgender students in public schools, “one of the most egregious examples of federal overreach I have ever witnessed.” He promised that “if we have to fight this order, we will not hesitate to do so.”

On May 13, the Department of Justice and Department of Education told the country’s schools that they should be making sure transgender students have equal access to all educational opportunities, including using facilities that match their gender identity. If they don’t, they put themselves at risk of losing federal funding.

Hundreds gather to celebrate naming of Harvey Milk Blvd

Hundreds of people gathered in the 9th & 9th District to celebrate the naming of three miles of 9th South to Harvey Milk Boulevard. Booths from many organizations, food vendors and entertainers lined the street in what seemed like a mini Pride.

Utah Pride Center sells building

Utah Pride Center leaders announced that their building, which they have called home since April of 2013, has been sold.

Leaders cited extensive building maintenance and cost associated with upkeep, lack of sufficient ADA access, and the fact that the facilities were “unable to match the diverse needs of the LGBT community.”

Honorary degree earns controversy for UofU

The University of Utah found itself in the middle of a controversy by giving an honorary degree to Lynette Neilsen Gay. The selection ignited backlash from faculty and staff because of her activities with the World Congress of Families and Family Watch International. Both groups are described as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center, and oppose rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals.

July 2016

Gunman kills 49 and injures over 50 in massacre

Many Utahns woke to tweets, texts, Facebook posts and calls the morning of Sunday, June 12 about a mass shooting in Orlando. While we know that mass shootings happen almost daily in this country, this one was different for two reasons — it was the largest mass shooting in America in centuries, and it was at a gay nightclub.

Vigils held across Utah for Orlando victims

From Logan to St. George, from Tooele to Salt Lake and Ogden and Provo, people from all across the state held vigils in support of the victims of the mass shooting at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Fla.

U.S, Senate apporves first openly gay Army secretary

The Senate unanimously approved Eric Fanning as Secretary of the Army after his nomination had been held up because Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kansas) was trying to stop the move of Guantanamo Bay detainees into the United States. Roberts said his opposition was about moving the prisoners, not Fanning’s, “character, courage or capability.”

August 2016

Misty Snow wins Democratic primary to face Sen. Mike Lee

Political newcomer Misty Kathrine Snow, a grocery store cashier, becomes the first transgender candidate in Utah to be on the November ballot in a statewide race, and one of two transgender candidates making history across the country.

Anti-trans* Utah school board candidate loses primary election

A school board candidate who advocated on his Facebook page for violence against trans* people using the restroom aligned with their identity has come in last place in Utah’s primary election.

David Sharette, who was running for the Utah State Board of Education in the 8th District, pulled in 13 percent of the vote in the four-way race with 3,250 votes. Janet A. Cannon got nearly 38 percent with 9,351 votes and Richard Nelson got 24.78 percent with 6,118 votes.

Utah Sen. Alvin Jackson resigns seat

Sen. Alvin Jackson (R-Alpine) announced this week that he is resigning from the Utah State Senate to move to Virginia to be closer with his family.

Jackson was appointed two years ago to replace Sen. John Valentine who left the post to become chairman of the Utah Tax Commission.

He was one of five senators who voted against SB296 — a compromise bill upholding religious liberties for certain organizations and protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in housing and employment.

Salt Lake City awards grant to Utah Gay Chamber

The Salt Lake City Department of Economic Development awarded $50,000 in grant funding to eight diverse local organizations to encourage inventive entrepreneurship, business growth and community building, including the Utah Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce.

Salt Lake County Council passes employee trans* health coverage

On Aug. 9, the Salt Lake County Council passed a proposal to provide healthcare coverage for trans* employees.

The half-hour discussion, titled “Employee Benefit and Healthcare Update and Health Benefit Request,” was presented by Salt Lake County Human Resources Director Michael Ongkiko and benefits coordinator Carolyn Campbell.

Mayor Biskupski weds fiancee

Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski married her fiancee, Betty Iverson on Sunday, Aug. 14.

“Yesterday our family was brought together by marriage,” read a post added to Biskupski’s Facebook page the morning of Aug. 15.

September 2016

‘Penthouse’: Utah Gov. Herbert wants to handle your penis

An irreverent headline, which reads: “Utah’s governor wants to handle your penis,” is a hit directed at Gary Herbert. The Republican governor declared pornography a public health crisis in a resolution in April.

USS Harvey Milk

Ray Mabus, the secretary of the Navy, has notified Congress that he will name a fleet oiler for Harvey Milk. Milk joined the Navy in 1951 and was stationed in San Diego as a diving instructor.

October 2016

Title IX for transgender people barred for now

Judge Reed O’Connor, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, has issued a nationwide injunction barring federal government from sanctioning schools for not following the Obama administration’s guidance on transgender bathroom policies.

Props to you mawma — RuPaul’s Emmy

RuPaul was awarded an Emmy for Outstanding Host for a Reality or Reality Competition Program. History was made with the award.

Utah hate crime bill to return under new name

Utah Sen. Daniel Thatcher (R-West Valley), is bringing back a recently defeated proposal to beef up the state’s hate crime law and add protections for gay and transgender people.

Thatcher said the measure would give heavier punishment to the small group of defendants who are found guilty of committing a crime to terrorize groups of people based on factors like race, gender and religion.

Equality Utah Allies Dinner sells out, draws thousands

The annual Allies Dinner, raising funds to support Equality Utah’s efforts on Utah’s Capitol Hill and around the state, as well as endorsed candidates, is the largest political fundraiser in the state. This year the event sold out early, in part because the keynote speaker was Gloria Steinem — American feminist, journalist, and social and political activist, who became nationally recognized as a leader and a spokeswoman for the feminist movement in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Three local rebels were honored with Allies Awards: Dr. Forrest Crawford, who has been in the trenches of Utah activism for over 30 years. Mama Dragons, a group of mothers who “breathe fire” for their LGBTQ kids. Dr. Rixt Luikenaar, who provides affirming healthcare to her patients at her clinic Rebirth OBGYN, and has dedicated her practice to providing care to the transgender community.

November 2016

HRC’s Congressional Hall of Shame

The Human Rights Campaign released a list of several U.S. senators and representatives who have “particularly anti- LGBTQ records.”

“These elected officials not only voted for anti-LGBTQ legislation, but they’ve introduced harmful bills and amendments, made extreme anti-LGBTQ statements and received a low score on HRC’s Congressional Scorecard,” the group said in a statement.

Report: LGBT seniors are welcome here

A senior housing referral service has ranked Salt Lake City as 11th in a list of America’s top cities for gay-friendly retirement. SeniorAdvice.com created SeniorScore, which they call the first comprehensive unbiased scoring system specifically designed to measure the livability for seniors; most recently determined the top gay-friendly cities for seniors.

In a release, SeniorAdvice. com said the company recognizes that the LGBTQ older adult community is currently a very important part of the American population to consider. According to the American Psychological Association, more than 39 million people in the U.S. are age 65 years or older, including 1.5 million people who identify as LGBTQ. Furthermore, as the Baby Boomer generation ages, the senior population will increase from 12.8 percent to an estimated 19 percent in 2030, meaning that the LGBTQ senior niche will undoubtedly grow as well.

Trump is ‘fine’ with same-sex marriage ruling

In his first television interview since becoming President-elect, Donald Trump said he does not think the Supreme Court needs to revisit the same-sex marriage issue, calling it “settled” and his feelings on it “irrelevant.”

“It’s law. It was settled in the Supreme Court. It’s done,” Trump told Lesley Stahl on CBS’ “60 Minutes.” “These cases have gone to the Supreme Court. They’ve been settled, and I’m fine with that.”

Nat’l Org for Marriage releases plan to end LGBT advances, same-sex marriage under Trump

The leader of the National Organization for Marriage, founded in part by the LDS Church, announced Wednesday their plan to reverse same-sex marriage, lift President Barack Obama’s gender identity directives and pass a so-called religious freedom Constitutional amendment in light of Donald Trump winning the presidency.

December 2016

Utah Pride Center elects new board leadership

The Utah Pride Center Board of Directors has elected a new slate of leaders at its annual election meeting. Former vice chair Sue Robbins is the new board chair, Michael Fordham is the new vice chair, Tim Johns is secretary and Jason Suker is treasurer. The new board will take office in January.

We See You and We Love You

The Utah Pride Center launched a new awareness campaign meant to show solidarity and unity for Utah’s LGBTQ community and its allies, and address the problems those in the community face, especially in the wake of this year’s presidential election.

The “We See You and We Love You,” campaign was created in response to the recent election, which has included verbal and physical harassment of members of the LGBTQ community.

Anti-gay Rep. LaVar Christensen in tight race for re-election bid

The author of Utah’s Amendment 3, which defined marriage as between one man and one woman, as well as several other anti-LGBT measures, LaVar Christensen, is losing by a smattering of votes at press time to challenger, Democrat Suzanne Harrison.

In preliminary election results as of Tuesday night, Nov. 15, Harrison shows 7,574 votes (50.1 percent) to Christensen’s 7,545 votes (49.9 percent) with all votes cast on election night counted, but with some absentee and provisional ballots still outstanding. Final election results will be certified by Tuesday, Nov. 22. A candidate can request a recount only if the race is closer than a quarter percent.

Following a recount, Christensen retained his seat with a five-vote majority.

Election wrap-up

UTAH HOUSE – All candidates but one that were endorsed by Equality Utah this year ran either unopposed or won by over 60 percent of the vote, which was known early in the race.

SALT LAKE COUNTY – Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams soundly defeated openly gay Republican candidate Dave Robinson. Equality Utah endorsed McAdams.

BEN MCADAMS (D) 209,124


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