Marina Gomberg’s road to Equality (in) Utah

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QSaltLake Magazine, for more than a decade, has followed Marina Gomberg’s unique and in many cases successful battles for LGBT rights and inclusion. The news of Gomberg’s stepping-down from Equality Utah’s Board of Directors hits hard.

“After what has felt like both the shortest and longest six years of my life, I’m concluding my service as a member of Equality Utah’s board of directors, and the occasion has me feeling a sweet mix of nostalgia and pride,” Gomberg said.

In honor of Gomberg, here are a few highlights and remarks from Gomberg:

In 2008, QSaltlake reported on an unprecedented National Coming Out Day Brunch, at which, as director of development and marketing at the Utah Pride Center, Gomberg paid tribute to two Utah educators who had worked hard to make the state’s schools safer and more inclusive places for gay and transgender students: Planned Parenthood’s Val Murdock and Barry Gomberg (Marina’s father), who helped to develop Weber State University’s Matthew Shepard Scholarship for LGBT and allied students.

“The lives and stories of LGBTQ people couldn’t be discussed openly by teachers in public schools and our transgender siblings lacked vital protections (ahem, and still do),” Gomberg reminisces.

Gomberg then spearheaded a 2009 program as the Utah Pride Center’s development director: The Services & Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Elders, referred to as SAGE, to “serve people from cradle to grave.” Also that year, the Center hosted a two-day summit for people of color in the LGBT movement. “Our hope is to bridge gaps and create relationships that will hopefully help create change in our community,” Gomberg said at the time.

Moving forward a few years, Gomberg joined Equality Utah in 2013 as Board Secretary, a volatile period during which “we had been dealt powerful blows to legal equality (think California’s Prop 8 and Utah’s Amendment 3) and I was ready to engage in the movement in a new way.”

“[But] I had to get my bearings on Utah’s political landscape quickly because Equality Utah was running an anti-discrimination bill sponsored by my friend and now current EU board member, former state Sen. Steve Urquhart,” said Gomberg. “The bill would have protected LGBTQ people from discrimination in housing and employment. It made it out of committee (a hurdle we celebrated heartily) but ultimately died.”

“The Kitchen v. Herbert case challenging Utah’s Amendment 3, Utah’s 2004 voter approved measure that specifically excluded same-sex couples from the freedom to marry, was filed that same month, and Utah’s road to marriage equality began to get paved with rainbow bricks.

Just one year later, she temporarily stepped down from the Board and assumed the role of EU’s interim executive director. During that time, Gomberg had also “legally married her wife Elenor, and she joined three other couples and the ACLU of Utah in a lawsuit compelling the governor to recognize the nearly 1,300 same-sex marriages performed in Utah during the brief window it was legal.”

“A year later in March 2015, the Utah Legislature overwhelming passed… the first anti-discrimination law to add protections for sexual orientation and gender identity in a red state. Watching Gov. Gary Herbert sign our protections into law was a moment I’ll never forget,” Gomberg remembers.

“Looking back, it seems like those pivotal moments foreshadowed a shift in political power that inspired such a momentous trajectory toward equality.

“I had serendipitously joined the board as Equality Utah was realizing its political strength (which is to say that while I take pride in what might be any small roles I played, the momentum created by my peers and the giants whose shoulders we all stood on are who to laud for what would follow).

“We’ve had more wins (even just killing anti-LGBTQ bills) and setbacks… but I have such overwhelming gratitude for witnessing life-changing and life-saving progress with a front-row seat.

“I thank Equality Utah for having me, and our state which I trust will courageously face our considerable journey toward justice that is yet to be traveled.”

Photo courtesy of Salt Lake Tribune

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