When we founded Equality Utah two decades ago, few could have imagined our progress: the passage of statewide nondiscrimination, overturning anti-LGBTQ laws, advancing inclusive hate crimes
laws and banning conversion therapy for minors. Oh, and who could forget the historic victory of Kitchen V. Herbert in 2013, which brought marriage equality to the state of Utah? It’s been a wild ride. And the credit goes to the tenacity of our community. Every year you step up, rally, march, donate, call, and raise good trouble. It is staggering what we have accomplished togetherover the past two decades. But there is more to do. For the next decade, we will continue to harness our collective power to create a dynamic culture of Belonging for everyone in Utah.
- Troy Williams | Executive Director, 2014 - present
Doug Wortham, James Dabakis and Michelle Turpin, frustrated with the status quo, got together over dinner and conceived the state’s first LGBTQ political PAC: Unity Utah. In 2004, the state passed Amendment 3 by referendum, which restricted any form of relationship recognition for LGBTQ couples in our state constitution. In response, Unity Utah became Equality Utah, and we evolved into a political education and lobbying organization. By 2013, a federal judge overturned Amendment 3, bringing marriage equality to the state of Utah. Today, the Equality Utah PAC still raises money to help elect pro-equality candidates across the state. But we have evolved to become so much more.
Our success has always come from the power of our community. No one individual or organization can take the credit. All of us, working together, lifting each other up, and rooting for each other has made Utah a state where LGBTQ Utahns know they belong.
Of course, we have obstacles and challenges along the way. But we also have phenomenal grit and determination. It doesn’t matter if the odds are stacked against us, we keep working for the world we hope to achieve.
To every member of our L, G, B, T, Q and Allied communities. Thank you for the progress we have made over the past twenty years. If we continue to stand united, more success is sure to come.
In response to California’s Proposition 8, which banned marriage equality in their state, we launched The Common Ground Initiative to advocate for statewide nondiscrimination protections. In response, Mayor Ralph Becker and the Salt Lake City Council passed the state’s first nondiscrimination ordinance to protect sexual orientation and gender identity. In 2010, Governor Jon Huntsman became the first Republican to endorse the effort.
Governor Gary Herbert signed SB 296, which for the first time in state history, provided legal protections for LGBTQ Utahns. This was the first time in U.S. history when a Republican-led legislature passed pro-LGBTQ protections. Later that summer, in Obergefell vs. Hodges, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that marriage equality was the law of the land in all fifty states. Due to Restore our Humanity, and the courageous plaintiffs in Kitchen V. Herbert, Utah enjoyed marriage equality a year before the historic ruling.
Equality Utah continues to push our legal rights forward. In 2017 we overturned a “No Promo Homo” law that restricted discussion of LGBTQ issues in public schools. In 2019 we worked to successfully pass an LGBTQ-inclusive Hate Crimes Law. Through the years, we’ve also successfully blocked legislation that would harm our community. We have a bold track record now of achieving what many observers have argued would be impossible in Utah. There is more to come!
In January of last year, Utah became the 19th state in the nation to ban the dangerous practice of conversion therapy for minors. Utah is by far the most conservative state to do so. LGBTQ children who are subjected to this discredited practice experience double the rates of depression, and triple the rates of suicide. Governor Herbert and Governor Cox became instrumental allies helping us to end the practice. We are grateful to the many survivors who came forward to share their stories. Their courage turned the tide in our state.
As we celebrate the progress that LGBTQ Americans have made, we will not leave behind those who are black, brown, immigrant, indigenous, undocumented, and refugee. We all belong to each other. We are all connected by universal bonds. We will continue to work with government leaders, corporate executives, and community organizers to ensure that everyone feels and knows that Utah is their home. We stand united to declare: Black Lives Matter.
Our nation may be polarized, but during our annual Allies Gala we are united by music, love, and queer power politics. Here we forge a future that celebrates all Utahns. Over the years our signature event has evolved to become Utah’s very own Met Gala. You never know what wild fashion you will see slaying the runway! Join us on October 2nd at the Eccles Theater.
Over the past 20 years we have learned that there is nothing we can’t achieve together. Forces may work to divide us. Some will always try to pit “us” against “them.” But “We” can break the pattern. We can embrace our shared humanity and find new ways to reconnect and belong to each other. That is the magic and power of the LGBTQ and Allied community. We invite you to continue with us in this work for the next 20 years.
This year we were successful in stopping two bills that would have harmed transgender Utahns: a medical ban to prohibit doctors from treating transgender youth, and a ban on transgender children participating in school sports. We are grateful that Governor Cox and Utah lawmakers chose a path of compassion and empathy.
Equality Utah’s Transgender Advisory Council works to expand legal protections for transgender, intersex, and non-binary Utahns. Together, we meet with lawmakers, review legislation, offer testimony at the Utah Capitol, and work to ensure that the laws in our state include and protect our communities. We move forward as one. We cross the finish line together.
Our work is only possible with your support and contributions. In these unprecedented times, please consider making a financial contribution to keep our work going. Thank you.Donate