When people think of the state of Utah, they often think of our world-famous snow or our iconic arches and red rocks. And maybe the Sundance Film Festival, if they’re cinephiles.
Those are the good associations.
But they are often paired with the less than good associations — many of which are as untrue as they are prevalent.
Our least favorite is that Utah is a homogenous state dominated by repressive and regressive ideas. Why do we hate that misperception? Because we’ve worked for the last 18 years to make sure it’s not true.
Of course, Utah is definitely a red state with many traditional values, but our capital, Salt Lake City is one of the most densely-populated LGBTQ cities in the country (one that the Boston Globe calls “America’s super gay, super cool hipster haven”) and identified by Gallup as the 7th “gayest city in America” (per capita, we are “gayer” than both Manhattan and Los Angeles).
And it’s not just happenstance (or something in the water), but it’s because LGBTQ and civil rights advocates have been working for decades to elect fair-minded public servants who could make real and sustained change that celebrates and protects diverse populations.
Like what, you ask? Well, we can remember fondly December 20th, 2013 when Utah Supreme Court Justice Robert Shelby deemed that Utah’s Amendment 3, which narrowly defined marriage as only between one man and one woman, was unconstitutional. On that historic date, we became the first state in the nation to overturn a ban on gay marriage.
Or take, for example, our anti-discrimination bill in 2015 that, when signed by Governor Herbert, protected the state’s estimated 55,000 LGBTQ adults from discrimination in housing and employment — ensuring that nobody could be fired or evicted because of who they are or who they love (and making Utah the first state in the union to ever pass a pro-LGBTQ law through a Republican-led legislature).
In 2017, we filed a lawsuit that ultimately encouraged lawmakers to ensure our schools can properly identify, educate about, and celebrate the lives of LGBTQ people in our public schools. No longer can the shroud of silence shame our young people into thinking they’re any less worthy or wonderful.
In 2019, we built a diverse coalition to pass a hate crime law to protect people who are targeted because of their faith, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation and gender identity. We are also working now to protect LGBTQ youth from the damaging and ineffective practice of conversion therapy. We’re also working to lift the voice of our transgender siblings (and to stop any attempts at anti-trans policy), so they, too, can live authentic lives with the legal validations we all value so deeply. And our newest focus, our Business Equality Leader program, is offering Utah’s diversifying and growing corporate sector the tools and training needed to recruit and retain diverse employees, to create inclusive corporate cultures and to take the lead in their industries by thoughtfully standing up for equality.
Few industries are as forward-thinking by nature as the tech world, so we so appreciate our deep and broadening partnership with the giants that make up Utah’s famous Silicon Slopes, and we believe in our collective power to make Utah an even better place in which to do business.
Working together, we can create a state where people from all backgrounds can be proud to call home.