On February 29, in the looming granite rotunda of the Utah State Capitol Building, a crowd of about 100 people gathered brimming with a determined energy. News reporters were present, email sign-up sheets were passed around the rally and a range of signs were hoisted in the air, stating things like “Str8 but not narrow,” “Human dignity is for all of us,” and “I am not a second class citizen.” The rally was a ‘human dignity rally’ organized by the newly birthed group Human Dignity Utah, founded by Weston Clark, Bob Henline, Megan Risbon and Alan Anderson.
Clark, a teacher and former chair of the Utah Democratic Party, said the purpose of their group is to finally bring equal rights to all Utahans regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.
“We have to be quick, we have to be proactive, and we have to let them know they can’t walk all over us,” Clark said to the gathered crowd.
Two recent bills regarding state-wide non-discrimination policies have both been tabled, one aimed at statewide nondiscrimination regarding housing and jobs, and the other aimed at promoting Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) sensitivity training for the State Legislature.
According to recent surveys, 73 percent of Utahans support this legislation, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS) and the Catholic Diocese of Utah have both come out in favor of the legislation. Companies like Adobe, EBay and 1-800-Contacts have also said they support equality and non-discrimination in Utah.
These measures are being taken to the Utah Legislature amid national debate on the issues of same-sex marriage and LGBT equality. In recent news, Maryland, New Jersey and Washington have all legalized same-sex marriage, which brings the total up to 17 states that have legalized same-sex marriage or unions granting similar rights to marriage.
“We’re always hitting the same wall,” Matthew Lyon, who attended the rally, said, referring to opponents of the anti-discrimination measures. Fourteen municipalities across the state have adopted similar measures, including cities like Salt Lake City, Taylorsville and Logan. “I’m optimistic that we will break down that wall, and I want to be here when it happens.”
Speakers at the rally included Jim Dabakis, current chair of the Democratic Party, Former State Representative Jackie Biskupski, Charles Lynn Frost as his theatrical character Sister Dottie S. Dixon, Kathy Godwin, president of SLC PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) and Isaac Higham, a young graduate student at Utah State University.
“I have heard too many times people my age say ‘it’s not my issue’ or ‘I’ll let someone else get involved’. No- we all need to be active,” Higham said amid cheers.
In 2012 Utah elections, only 10 percent of registered voters in the 18-24 year old range actually went to the polls and cast their vote, one of the lowest turn-outs nationwide. Higham cited this fact in urging the crowd to be politically charged. The speakers all carried similar messages of political activism, determination and hope for change.
“Barriers are not as formidable as they seem,” Rep. Biskupski said in reference to opponents in the legislature to non-discrimination policies.
Rap Biskupski also detailed delegate training. Delegates are the backbone of the democratic process in Utah: they attend caucuses and officially vote for our elected officials. Delegate meetings will occur on March 13th for the Democratic Party and March 22nd for the Republican Party. More information on where those trainings will take place can be found at http://www.utahdemocrats.org and http://www.utgop.org respectively.