Year in Review

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Person of the Year — Misty Snow
In 2016, Misty Snow made national headlines for being the first transgender person in America to win a primary party nomination for U.S. Senate and the first to appear on a general election ballot. QSaltlake Magazine chose her as Person of the Year, not necessarily because she ran, but because she showed our community that a cashier from Taylorsville could make a significant change.

Councilman speaks out against gay country singer performing at So. Ogden Days event
South Ogden councilman Adam Hensley voted without comment in a Jan. 3 meeting against bringing openly gay country music singer Ty Herndon to perform at the 2017 South Ogden Days event.

“I have absolutely no problems or issues with homosexuality or airing the subject of sexuality in public forums,” Hensley said in a written statement to the Ogden Standard-Examiner. “I believe that all people, regardless of sexual orientation, should be treated with respect and kindness. “I also have unanswered concerns whether or not Ty Herndon’s potential political speech would be in concert with South Ogden’s traditional community standards.”

Ultimately, Herndon was invited to and performed at the June event.

LGBT hate crime bill aims for higher penalty for crimes against minority communities
Utah State Sen. Daniel W. Thatcher, R-West Valley, introduced Senate Bill 72, Victim Selection Pena Enhancements, in the 2017 General Session of the Utah State Legislature. The bill would modify Utah’s current hate crime law, which has been called a “toothless tiger” by Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill and never used successfully.

The bill would “provide that the penalty for a criminal offense is subject to enhancement by one degree if the offender acted against an individual because of the offender’s perception of the individual’s ancestry, disability, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, national origin, race, religion, or sexual orientation.”

The bill, however, failed.

Nanny cam defuncts man’s claim of self-defense in the killing of his male roommate
Andrew Burke Berry IV told Salt Lake City police that his roommate threatened him by wielding a bat after he rebuffed sexual advances. Berry, 22, said they struggled, and he got control of the bat and killed 39-year-old Timothy Houlihan in his bedroom Aug. 9, 2016. Berry told police he struck Houlihan “about five times.” Police, however, testified in a probable cause hearing that a ‘nanny-cam’ video of the attack showed Berry beating Houlihan 16 to 18 times.

Andrew Berry, the defendant’s father, created a FundedJustice campaign to raise money in January 2017 for his son’s defense, pleading, “Our 19-year-old son was drugged, sexually assaulted, and hit in the head with a baseball bat by a  sexual predator who pretended to be a movie producer.”

As of November, contributions reached to just over $1,000 of a $50,000 goal to Berry’s defense, and Berry currently is housed in the Salt Lake County Jail on a $1 million bail.

Park City GSA raises $3200 for homeless youth
Park City High School Gay-Straight Alliance students wanted to help LGBT teens who were less fortunate than they since Park City is significantly a welcoming community.

They were out at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival and raised $3,200 for the Volunteers of America Homeless Youth Resource Center in Salt Lake City. Many LGBT teens, they say, end up on the streets when their families reject them.

The students held a bake sale and found filmgoers eager to pitch in when they saw the club’s rainbow flag and understood the use of the money raised.

“A large proportion of the homeless youth everywhere, but especially in Utah, is LGBT, so we thought it would be a good thing that would contribute to our cause (as a club) but also help other communities,” said Jayda Robinson, a GSA member.


Encircle, an LGBT youth resource center opens in Utah County

A one-of-a-kind building in the state became a one-of-a-kind service for young LGBT people in Provo, Utah. The historic William D. Alexander House, listed in the National Register of Historic Places and thought to be the only period example of Stick Style architecture in Utah, became home to the Encircle LGBT+ Family & Youth Resource Center.

“This is about family, about staying together as a united family. This house is the aid, the resource to keep families together,” said Steve Young, former NFL, and Brigham Young University quarterback. He and his wife, Barbara, are co-founders of the Forever Young Foundation and were one of the many early donors for the Encircle home.

The Encircle center offers workshops, free classes, wellness and awareness-raising events, mentoring and therapy.

BSA welcomes trans boys

The Boy Scouts of America announced that it will now accept transgender boys who wish to be scouts. President of the Great Salt Lake Area chapter, Bruce R. Hough, told Fox 13 News that the organization is already inclusive of everyone, that the transgender acceptance announcement was not a policy change, it was a clarification.

In contrast, Fox 13 News asked Hough, “What about when a child is born a female, and who later identifies as a boy wants to become a BSA member, how will you accept him?”

“We are going to have a discussion with the parents if we even know,” replied Hough. “We may not ever know. But if we know and they want to have that discussion, then we will sit down with the parents and make sure we understand the best program for their child to participate in.”


3 LGBT bills in 2017 Legislative Session

Few bills introduced in 2017 at the Utah State Legislature that were directly related to the LGBT community — a bill to remove the ban on teachers and school officials discussing homosexuality in a positive way, a hate crime bill that wasn’t called a hate crime bill, and a bill that will enhance penalties for certain sex crimes if the perpetrator is HIV-positive and/or hepatitis-positive.

Senate Bill 196  The bill that would repeal language in a Utah law that prohibits the discussion of homosexuality was expected to be signed by the governor and put into law. The bill passed almost unanimously, with only Rep. Eric Hutchings, R-Kearns, voting against it in the House.

Senate Bill 72  A bill to address “victim selection,” aka for many people “hate crimes,” may have gotten an early start, but that’s where it sat through the entire session. The bill, which would delineate hate crimes as those perpetuated because of the victim’s perceived “ancestry, disability, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, national origin, race, religion, or sexual orientation,” was never even debated in committee.

Senate Bill 369  A bill that started out as one that criminalized (in the form of a first-degree felony) not making a sexual partner aware of an HIV-positive status dramatically changed but still had some serious flaws. Activists worked on the governor for his veto, but also they firmly believed he would sign it into law.

HIV nondisclosure bill signed into law

HB 369 — Sexual Offenses and Statutory Nonconsent Amendments, sponsored by Rep. Justin Fawson, R-N. Ogden, was first heard Feb. 22 by the House Judiciary Committee. The committee held the bill due to multiple concerns that were leveled by lawmakers and public commenters. Two days later, it was back on House Judiciary’s agenda.

Equality Utah Executive Director Troy Williams said, “Perpetrators should be punished for rape and causing bodily harm. The concern that we have is starting down a path of broadly criminalizing people living with a disease.”

The bill passed the full legislature on the last day of the session and was signed by Gov. Gary Herbert.

LDS Church, faith groups, file brief against trans protections

The Supreme Court announced that it would not hear the case of a Virginia transgender teen Gavin Grimm, whose school ordered him to use a bathroom that corresponds to his “biological gender.”

Ahead of the court’s ruling, six faith groups including the Mormon Church filed a brief urging the court to rule against trans rights. In part, the brief reads: “Religious denominations and their members could come under attack for selecting leaders who reflect their religious beliefs about gender. And religious Americans could find themselves increasingly marginalized for believing that gender is immutable and divinely ordained.”

While a blatant disregard for the separation of church and state, at that same time President Trump vowed to relax laws that prevent tax-exempt religious groups from directly intervening in politics.


Chris Wharton lands in Salt Lake City Councilman seat

Eight is enough for Salt Lake City Councilman Stan Penfold. After two four-year terms, Penfold decided not seek reelection. Penfold said he was announcing it early to give people time to campaign for the seat. Openly gay attorney and former Utah Pride board member Chris Wharton had quickly filed for the position and subsequently won the race.

Penfold became the first openly gay member of the Salt Lake City Council when he was elected in 2009, representing District 3.

Misty Snow announces a run for Rep. Stewart seat in 2018

Misty Snow announced she would be running for Utah’s second congressional seat, currently held by Rep. Chris Stewart. Congressional District 2 is mostly made up of southwestern Utah, part of Davis County and the north half of Salt Lake County.

Snow sees her working-class background as being an advantage that allows her to connect with average people; allowing her to understand their needs including, in part, a significant increase in minimum wage. Endorsements include Equality PAC, Democracy for America and Our Revolution.

Motive unclear in murder of S. Jordan man

A gay South Jordan man was found shot to death in his car Easter Sunday in South Salt Lake. The body of Matthew Holt, 46, was discovered in his black Mazda at about 3200 South and 900 West, according to South Salt Lake police detective Gary Keller. Police believe the shooting was between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. and that it was not a self-inflicted injury.

James Madison Park, on 3300 South and the Jordan River at about 1200 West, has long been a place where men seek sexual liaisons. While police didn’t say whether they are investigating a connection to that location, close friends say it is possible Holt was there cruising.

A male suspect was apprehended about a month later, and the incident was believed to be a robbery gone awry.


LDS Church pulls older teens from BSA

In an official statement, the LDS Church announced they’d be pulling out older LDS boys from the Boy Scouts of America. The reason for the move is that the scouting program was no longer fulfilling the “spiritual, social, physical and intellectual development goals” of older boys.

The move could affect more than 180,000 LDS Boy Scouts nationwide, according to additional statements made by the church.

BSA officials met (not necessarily in response to the LDS Church’s decision) to discuss creating new opportunities for young women. Statements made by BSA President Randall Stephenson reflected a desire to become more inclusive, but officials did not say what changes these discussions would lead to in the future.

Utah State Board of Education repeals ‘No Promo Homo’ law

Subject to a lawsuit brought by Equality Utah and the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the Utah State Board of Education repealed a policy that prohibited discussion of anything that may construe as “promotion” of homosexuality in classrooms.

The board voted unanimously without discussion to repeal the measure. The Utah State Legislature passed a bill sponsored by Republican Sen. Stuart Adams, which Gov. Gary Herbert signed into law.

Equality Utah and NCLR represented three unnamed students in various school districts across the state. The lawsuit claimed that LGBT students were subjected to bullying and unequal treatment in schools because teachers were forbidden to discuss their issues in a positive light.

The bill, Senate Bill 196, removed homosexuality from existing law but maintained that Utah must teach abstinence outside of marriage. It passed with few dissenting votes.


Tens of thousands of people participated in the annual Utah Pride Festival, including over 50,000 participants on Sunday, the final day of the week-long event, according to organizers.

Salt Lake police also estimated between 35,000 and 40,000 people attended Sunday morning’s parade that included nearly 140 parade entries, which stretched the event to more than two hours.

In retrospect, a group of about two dozen protesters lined the beginning of the parade route, nearly blocked the entrance to the festival, and were blaring anti-gay speech through a loudspeaker. Additionally, many of the protesters told any crowd members who would listen that things will change under the Trump administration, and anti-Muslim rhetoric and “Make America White Again” chanting. The increase in protesters led Pride organizers to work toward stepping up security for future festivals.

Utah Pride Parade director Bonnie O’Brien announced the following 1st Place winners among the 140 entries in this year’s parade.

Business: Comcast
Nonprofit: QUAC
School: Weber State University
Small business: Club Karamba

Mormon teen comes out during church services to mixed response

A 12-year-old girl who came out as a lesbian in front of her Eagle Mountain Mormon church ward was told to sit down midway through a speech in which she said she was not a “horrible sinner.”

The young girl, Savannah, during her testimony, said she was a child of “heavenly parents” who had “made me to be gay.”

“I believe that if God is there, he knows I’m perfect just the way I am, and would never ask me to live my life alone or with someone I am not attracted to,” she continued. “He would want me to be happy. I want to be happy. I want to love myself and not to feel shame for being me. I ask you …” at which point the microphone went silent and Savannah was told to sit down by the stake president.

Her mother, Heather Kester, said that Savannah left the stage in tears.

“She came off crying to me. We both walked out of the hall, and I held her face in my hands and told her over and over that she is perfect and good, that there is nothing wrong with who she is, that she is brave and beautiful,” Kester said.

According to Kester, her daughter has since received “the most beautiful, supportive outpouring of love from allies, and members of the LGBT+ community. She is full, happy, free, and has a fire in her soul that is ready to blaze forward. I’m so lucky to have her and privileged to get to watch her grow into the powerful person she has inside.”

Michael Sanders named Mr. Leather SLUT

The Mr. Leather SL♥UT competition is a mission to promote leather culture in the Salt Lake City community, says Andrew Love, producer of the advocacy competition.

“We are looking for leather men to act as an ambassador, working with various segments of the broader LGBTQ community as well as various segments of the radical sex communities,” Love said.

This year Michael Sanders takes the “reins” as Mr. Leather, honored during the Pride festival.

The Mr. Leather SL♥UT competition is the local step to national Leather title circuit competitions. Chicago.

“As the titleholder, I will use my visibility and voice to affect positive change. I will lobby for our civil rights, support charitable programs that serve and enhance the lives of our diverse community,” Michael wrote. “I will continue to live my life authentically and encourage others to do the same.”


Finger-pointing at a same-sex murder-suicide

Two Taylorsville, Utah, women were found dead in what police are calling a murder-suicide. The women were in a nearly six-year relationship and were in the process of breaking up.

Unified Police responded to reports of an early shooting on a Thursday morning in July. Upon arrival, they found the women dead from gunshot wounds. Police believed 49-year-old Fransiska “Siska” Dastrup shot her 47-year-old ex-girlfriend, Richelle “Shelly” Horsley, discovered in her car, and Dastrup about 100 yards away.

Some friends blamed the police for inaction in the situation. Others blamed Utah’s mental health care system, having said the suspect was in need of treatment.

John Williams’ killer pleads guilty

An arsonist’s fire in 2016 shook the LGBT, Utah business and general communities by taking the life of well-known Salt Lake City restaurateur John Williams.

Craig Crawford pled guilty to first-degree felony counts of aggravated murder and aggravated arson in SLC’s Third District Court on Tuesday, June 26.

Williams and Crawford were married for 20 years but had recently filed for divorce. Williams filed for a protective order on May 2, 2016, shortly before the fire and his death. Charges indicated Williams was in the process of evicting Crawford from the house and had expressed fear of Crawford.

BYU-Idaho fires professor over pro-gay FB post

A BYU-Idaho teacher was told to retract a pro-LGBT Facebook post or lose her job. She didn’t retract the post.

Adjunct professor of political science Ruthie Robertson subsequently learned the school canceled her contract for the fall and winter semesters. She was allowed to finish out her summer course.

Church leaders have said that personal beliefs on sexuality and gender identity that might run contrary to the church’s position would not cause people to lose their membership. They didn’t say, however, how it might affect their employment.

Provo LGBT youth center gets last-minute heave-ho from Freedom parade

In a grandiloquent gesture, Provo’s Freedom Festival Grand Parade organizers revoked, on July 3, the pre-approved application of Encircle: LGBT + Family & Youth Resource Center to march in the July 4th parade, classifying it an advocacy group — groups prohibited from participating.

In a July 15 op-ed in the Deseret News, Kyle Chilton, a BYU employee, wrote: [Encircle’s] mission is a noble one, to “empower families to sustain the circle of their love, enabling each member to thrive.”

“We respect the decision of the parade committee and will use this as an opportunity to show Provo who we are. We will always come from a place of love and intention, never fear or reaction. We are here to be a safe space for all, which means being planted firmly,” Stephanie Larsen, Encircle’s director said.

KSL disses Mayor Biskupski at Days of ’47 Parade

Mayors and governors are usually front and center, alongside their spouses, at annual parades. This year was the first that Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski rode atop a convertible at the Days of ‘47 Parade with her spouse, Betty Iverson.

As the pair approached KSL Television’s cameras during the live coverage, they cut to a reporter who offered up a quiz on famous Mormons.

KSL General Manager Tanya Vea to Salt Lake Tribune that the station often cuts away from parade entries that are not floats or bands, and that no slight was intended.


Utah ex-cop claims ‘catfished’ by underaged boy

Following the arrest of a Saratoga Springs, Utah ex-police officer on July 27 for unlawful sexual contact with a minor, Officer Aaron Rosen, 46, of South Jordan, claimed he was “catfished” by the 16-year-old boy.

In the Aug. 2 Fourth District Court hearing, Rosen was charged with one count of Class A misdemeanor unlawful sexual conduct with a 16- or 17-year-old, after he allegedly went to the teen’s home, kissed him and touched him inappropriately over his clothing.

Ugandan activists settle in Salt Lake City

Ugandan activists Barnabas Wobiliya and Apollo Kann, left their homes in Mbale, Uganda, to seek asylum in Kenya as refugees. In 2016, the United States, which under the Obama administration had offered special protection for LGBTQ-identifying refugees, granted their wishes. They were given asylum in the United States in under two years.

Since arriving in Utah, Barnabas, 35, and Apollo, 28, share an apartment as roommates in Salt Lake City and have been adjusting to life in America. They’ve made friends with LGBTQ Utahns and connected with local groups like Equality Utah and The Utah Pride Center.


Gay couple challenges Utah surrogacy law

A married gay couple’s petition to enter a surrogacy agreement was denied last year by southern Utah’s Fifth District Court Judge Jeffrey C. Wilcox, who determined he had no choice but to reject the petition “because neither of the legally married intended parents are women.” The couple then asked Utah’s high court to declare a portion of the state’s surrogacy law unconstitutional as it forbids gay men the right to have biological children through surrogacy.

The Utah Attorney General’s office, which typically defends state laws before the court, did not oppose the case. The department agreed that the district court’s order should be reversed and support a gender-neutral reading of the statutes, the brief from Assistant Solicitor General Brent Burnett said.

Youth suicides climbing in Utah

The Utah Department of Health has confirmed that 425 suicides occurred in the state so far this year. Health department epidemiologist Elizabeth Brutsch said Sep. 12 that there remains a lot their department doesn’t know about what’s driving the suicide rate higher in Utah.

A coalition of experts and officials are attacking the problem on several fronts, said health department spokesperson Jenny Johnson. For instance, there’s a big focus on raising awareness about the risks of firearms, and the state Board of Education recently introduced a smartphone app called SafeUT that connects youth to professional help.

John Williams’ ex-husband sentenced to life in prison

Utah’s Third District Court Judge James Blanch found Craig Crawford, husband of John Williams, guilty of aggravated murder, calling it a “cruel and vicious crime.” Crawford had pled guilty to the murder by setting fire to Williams’ home on an early morning in August 2016.

Williams’ family urged Judge Blanch to sentence Crawford to life in prison without the possibility of parole, to which the judge agreed.

‘No Promo Homo’ law dissolved

In 2016, Equality Utah and three student plaintiffs filed a lawsuit against Utah’s State Board of Education to challenge the so-called No Promo Homo law. For nearly two decades, the law prohibited Utah students and teachers from discussing “homosexuality” in our state’s public schools.

In a nearly unanimous vote, the Utah Legislature repealed the state’s No Promo Homo law with SB 196.

The State Board of Education issued a letter Sept. 18, to all Utah public and charter schools clarifying the intent of SB 196. The letter expresses the Board’s desire to ensure that “each student in Utah public schools receives a high-quality education free from all manner of discrimination, which can take the form of bullying, based on religion, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and gender identity.”


Mayor Biskupski honors Kendall, Bastian with Keys to the City

Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski chose National Coming Out Day, Oct. 11,  to honor longtime LGBT activist Kate Kendall and philanthropist Bruce Bastian with a Key to the City.

In honoring Kendall and Bastian, the Mayor noted their longtime advocacy on behalf of LGBT in Utah and nationally. Kendall is executive director of the San Francisco based National Center for Lesbian Rights. Bastian has taken a lead role in supporting the Human Rights Campaign and the campaign against Prop 8 in California.

Utah same-sex couple tragically part ways after Las Vegas massacre

On the night of Oct. 1, 2017, a gunman opened fire on a crowd of concertgoers at the Route 91 Harvest music festival on the Las Vegas Strip in Nevada, leaving 58 people dead and 546 injured.

A gay Utah man was one among the victims killed in the mass shooting. Robinson’s boyfriend, Bobby Eardley was injured, having sustained shrapnel in his lower back.

The family set up a GoFundMe campaign to help pay for Robinson’s funeral expenses and Eardley’s hospital expenses and had raised over $35,000.

Two-Spirit couple disqualified from Powwow competition

A gay couple from Salt Lake City competed in a “Sweetheart Special” dance competition at the annual San Manuel Powwow in San Bernadino, Calif., the weekend of Oct. 13–15. While ultimately disqualified from the competition, which awarded a total of $34,500 to the top 10 couples, because contest rules require the couple to be male-female, the fact they were able to dance in the first round is considered a substantial move forward.

The Powwow committee and judges became aware of the couple after learning they had lied on the registration form but allowed them to complete the dance “to honor them and their relationship.” Subsequently, the audience and people who have since commented on videos posted online praised the couple.


General election results good for Utah LGBT candidates and allies

Salt Lake City Council’s LGBT contingent grew by one, and eight of Equality Utah’s picks for LGBT-inclusive candidates won their seats in the most recent election, held Nov. 7 across the state.

Equality Utah-endorsed candidates who successfully earned their seats: Chris Wharton, Salt Lake City Council District 3; Erin Mendenhall, Salt Lake City Council District 5; Amy Fowler, Salt Lake City Council District 7; Marcia White, Ogden City Council at-large A; Andy Beerman, Park City Mayor; Dustin Gettel, Midvale City Council District 5; Mariah S. Elliot, Ivins City Council; and Corey Thomas, South Salt Lake City Council District 2.

SLC receives poor grade on LGBT Equality Index

If Salt Lake City were in school, the grade it would receive from the Human Rights Campaign and Equality Federation Institute on LGBT equality would be a D+.

The two LGBT equality organizations released the 2017 Municipal Equality Index in November and out of a possible 100 points, Salt Lake City received a score of 69. Ogden was ranked next highest with 47 points, and Logan, Provo, West Jordan and West Valley City earned an abysmal 35 points. Park City received 38 points.

One category that Salt Lake City received 100 percent was on the relationship the city had with the LGBT community and received “extra credit” points for having openly LGBT elected or appointed municipal leaders.

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