Equality Utah - Issues

Today, the Utah Legislature passed a bill repealing a state law prohibiting supportive discussions of “homosexuality” in public and charter school curricula and classrooms. The legislation passed with bipartisan support by a 27-1 vote in the Senate and a 68- 1 vote in the House. The bill now goes to Governor Gary Herbert for signature. The repeal bill was sponsored by Senator J. Stuart Adams.

“This is a historic day for LGBTQ students in Utah,” declared Equality Utah Executive Director Troy Williams. “We commend Senator Adams and the Utah Legislature for recognizing that LGBTQ students should be treated with the same respect and dignity as other students. The removal of this discriminatory language from the school curriculum laws will send a positive message that all students are valued in Utah.”

Last October, Equality Utah and three students, represented by the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and the law firm of Ropes & Gray LLP, filed a federal lawsuit challenging state laws that ban supportive speech about lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people in Utah public schools.

The lawsuit challenges several Utah laws and regulations that prevent supportive discussions of gay, lesbian, and bisexual people in curricula, classroom discussions, and student clubs. The lawsuit argues that these discriminatory restrictions create a negative environment for LGBTQ students, perpetuate discrimination and bullying, and contribute to the high rates of anti-LGBTQ harassment in Utah schools. The lawsuit alleges that the laws violate the U.S. Constitution and federal education law by discriminating against LGBT people and restricting the First Amendment rights of students and teachers.

Earlier this year, the parties agreed to put the case on hold while the Utah legislature considered a legislative solution. The bill passed today repeals the key language challenged in the lawsuit.

Said Kate Kendell, Executive Director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights and a Utah native: “We applaud Senator Adams and the Utah Legislature for acting in the interest of Utah students and repealing this outdated law. These public officials performed a great public service by recognizing that this statue serves no good purpose and actively harms LGBT students. This is a very gratifying development and a significant step forward in resolving our litigation challenging this stigmatizing and unconstitutional law.”

Professor Cliff Rosky, a member of Equality Utah’s Advisory Council stated: “The intent of SB 196 is crystal clear: all students are equal. We are confident that in the coming weeks, we can work with the Attorney General's Office, the Utah State Board of Education, and local school districts to resolve our lawsuit, by ensuring that the intent of SB 196 is carried out in all of our state's public schools and charter schools.”

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The National Center for Lesbian Rights is a national legal organization committed to advancing the human and civil rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education.www.NCLRights.org

Formed in 2001, Equality Utah is the largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender advocacy group in the state. Its mission is to secure equal rights and protections for LGBTQ Utahns and their families, and its vision is of a fair and just Utah. For more information, please visit equalityutah.org

On February 28, Equality Utah hosted a panel of guests to discuss transgender issues around the topic of student bathroom access, the Gavin Grimm case and much more. President Trump has approved the reversal of an Obama administration order that allowed transgender students to use the restroom of their gender identity.  We had panelists Danielle Hawkes of the Salt Lake Lawyers, Candice Metzler of TEA of Utah, Susan Reimers of the Utah Pride Center, and John Mejia of ACLU of Utah weigh in on their thoughts and opinions on the topics at hand, and they answered questions from our members on the call. What implications does this have for our students? Where do we go from here? For more information on the townhall check out our livetweet of the call here, or you can check out the call here. #eutranstalk

 

Monday, 23 January 2017 11:24

The 2017 EU Calendar is here!

It's here!  Equality Utah's annual calendar has arrived.  You can own one of these beautifully crafted calendars for only $10.

Celebrate the entire year with heartwarming photos of the LGBTQ community and their allies.

Order Your Calendar Today!

Everyone Included

The work ahead is to create a culture of belonging and hope for LGBTQ Utahns. We have no illusions that the work ahead is going to be considerably more challenging. We know the resolve and resilience of our community. We are irrational optimists.

Here & Now

No matter the obstacles ahead, we never stop fighting for the world we long to create. Regardless of the challenges, we must hold fast to our shared vision: a community where all are loved, included and free to achieve their potential. That is the world Equality Utah is working to realize. 

Stand With Us

Equality Utah’s goal in 2018 is to be bigger and bolder. Will you strengthen our work with a contribution, or a recurring donation? We couldn't do this work without you.

 

Culture of silence’ • Equality Utah says curriculum laws barring discussions of homosexuality in public schools violate First Amendment rights to free speech.

Equality Utah sued the state’s education office in federal court late Friday, challenging Utah’s curriculum laws that bar teachers and students from positive discussions about homosexuality in public schools.

Filed in Salt Lake City’s U.S. District Court, the suit asks a federal judge to strike what it calls anti-lesbian, -gay, -bisexual and -transgender curriculum laws because they are unconstitutional and violate First Amendment rights to free speech, 14th Amendment rights to equal protection and laws that prohibit sex discrimination and equal access.

“The anti-gay school laws were enacted in order to express moral disapproval of ‘homosexuality’ and of LGBT persons,” court papers say. “They do not serve any legitimate state interest.”

Equality Utah Executive Director Troy Williams announced the lawsuit to thunderous applause at the organization’s annual fundraiser, the Allies Dinner, on Friday night, noting that the laws are some of the most odious anti-LGBT regulations that remain on the books. 

“It explicitly stigmatizes queer students. It sends a message that our lives are something shameful, something that must be censored and erased,” Williams said to the crowd of more than 2,000. “The time has come to end the stigma and strike ‘no promo homo’ from state law.” 

The lawsuit is the first of its kind in any state.

“It could set the precedent for the striking down these laws nationally,” said Chris Stoll, attorney for the San Francisco-based National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR).

At least seven other states have similar regulations, which some LGBT advocates call “no promo homo” or “don’t say gay” laws.

Such laws single out homosexuality and LGBT persons for poor treatment, improperly restrict speech and “create a culture of silence and nonacceptance of LGBT students and teachers,” Utah court papers say. They also leave LGBT students at risk for “isolation, harassment and long-term negative impacts on their health and well-being.”

The NCLR brought the suit on behalf of Equality Utah, three public-school students — all minors — and their parents, who say their children were not protected by teachers and administrators in their respective schools.

One of the minors is a 7-year-old Weber County boy who is gender nonconforming and sometimes wears girl clothes. In kindergarten, he was teased and beaten at school by other students, who pulled down his pants to see which type of underwear he wore. After suffering severe anxiety, he left school.

The second student is a gay, male high school student from Cache County who has suffered consistent bullying and has been subjected to gay slurs since elementary. He says he was barred from talking about his uncle’s same-sex marriage at school. The third is a lesbian who says she was selectively disciplined while in middle school for holding hands with another girl. Now in enrolled in a Salt Lake County high school, she says she has been discouraged from asking questions about homosexuality in health class.

Named as defendants in the lawsuit are the Utah Board of Education; State Superintendent Sydnee Dickson; and the Cache County, Jordan and Weber school districts, where the children either are or were enrolled in school.

Calls placed to representatives of Jordan school districts was not returned Friday night. The Board of Education had no comment Friday night, according to spokeswoman Emilie Wheeler, who said its legal counsel had not yet had a chance to look over the document.

The Weber School District on Monday said it had no comment. A Cache County school district spokesman said Tuesday he also had no comment, noting that the district hadn’t received a copy of the complaint yet.

According to the suit, Utah’s laws include multiple provisions targeting LGBT persons. 

First, state law prohibits the use of educational material that includes “advocacy of homosexuality,” court papers say, and, second, requires teaching “abstinence before marriage … and prohibits the advocacy of sexual activity outside of marriage.” 

The laws also continue to reference Utah’s historical, now unconstitutional, one-man-one-woman marriage laws, which declare void any same-sex unions. 

“These laws prevent presentation of accurate information concerning lesbian, gay, bisexual people in health classes and other classes, even when such information serves important educational purposes, while imposing no similar restriction on discussion of heterosexuality,” the lawsuit states. 

And while Utah’s laws appear primarily in the “instruction in health” section of state code, the Board of Education has adopted a rule that extends curriculum laws to “any course or class,” broadly prohibiting speech, the lawsuit argues. 

That makes it hard for teachers and students to know what they can and can’t say, University of Utah law professor Cliff Rosky said. 

“I don’t know if you could even teach a class on this case,” he said. “If a kid brings a newspaper clipping of this story to social studies, I’m not sure what the teacher is supposed to do.” 

Additionally, a Utah school-clubs law requires a ban on the formation of extracurricular school club, including gay-straight alliances, if their proposed activities would as “part of their conduct or means of expression … involve human sexuality,” the lawsuit states, and requires clubs to follow laws prohibiting advocacy of homosexuality.

No similar bans, according to the lawsuit, would apply to clubs about heterosexuality, heterosexual persons or heterosexual issues.

“That discrimination harms LGBT students in a variety of ways,” court papers say, “including by preventing them from participating equally in student clubs, stigmatizing them as inferior an unequal.”

— Salt Lake Tribune reporter Mariah Noble contributed to this story

Salt Lake City, UT – Equality Utah’s political clout continues to increase as it welcomes prominent Utahns, James Huntsman, Senator Steve Urquhart and one of the organization’s original founders, Michelle Turpin to its Board of Directors. 

James Huntsman, the son of philanthropist Jon Huntsman Sr., has built his own career as co-founder and partner at Blue Fox Entertainment a global film sales company. Prior to starting Blue Fox, he spent more than 20 years at Huntsman Corporation. In 2016, he was appointed to the Utah Art and Culture Business Alliance by Governor Gary Herbert.  He and his wife Marianne are the proud parents of five children. 

“I'm thrilled to be involved with an organization who represents the marginalized in our society,” Huntsman said. “We all must work together to bring equal rights and treatment to our entire diverse community.” 

The soon to be retiring state senator, Steve Urquhart (District 29) comes to the board after successfully sponsoring the historic nondiscrimination legislation SB296 in 2015 granting 55,000 LGBTQ Utahns the freedom to live and work without fear of being fired or evicted for who they are or who they love. 

“As a Senator, I have loved working with Equality Utah to promote civil rights for all Utahns” he explained. “We've made progress, but the promise of liberty and justice is not yet a reality for LGBTQ Utahns. There is more to do. And I am excited to continue battling as a member of Equality Utah's Board.” 

Senator Urquhart and his wife Sarah have recently relocated to Salt Lake City. They are the parents of three children. 

Equality Utah also welcomes local tax attorney and Equality Utah co-founder Michelle Turpin, who was also instrumental in the founding of the Utah Pride Center, the state’s LGBTQ community center.

Troy Williams, the executive director said, “We are eager to put these three to work to advance the work and mission of Equality Utah. Their experience and expertise will be invaluable in creating a state that provides opportunity and protections for all Utahns.” 

"Equality Utah's Board of Directors thrives as a body because of the diversity of expertise, perspectives and lived experiences of its members," said board chair, Marina Gomberg. "We welcome Huntsman, Urquhart and Turpin with open arms and great anticipation of the contributions their dedicated service will bring to our organization and this movement."

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About Equality Utah

Formed in 2001, Equality Utah is the largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender advocacy group in the state. Its mission is to secure equal rights and protections for LGBTQ Utahns and their families, and its vision is of a fair and just Utah. For more information, please visit equalityutah.org.

Donate via Donor Advised Fund

DAF Direct allows donors such as yourself to recommend grants from your donor–advised fund directly from our website. Neither you nor the Equality Utah Foundation will incur any download or transaction fees. This simple service makes using your donor-advised fund to contribute to Equality Utah Foundation even easier.

James Huntsman is co-founder and partner at Blue Fox Entertainment a global film sales company. Prior to starting Blue Fox, he spent over 20 years at Huntsman Corporation, a publicly traded chemical company on the NYSE. Previously, James was a partner at Asgaard Entertainment from 2006-2009 where he was involved in developing, producing, marketing and selling feature films.  In 2016, James was appointed to the Utah Art and Culture Business Alliance by Governor Gary Herbert.  He also serves on the board of the Utah World Trade Center. James and Marianne are the parents of five children.

 

Equality Utah sponsors community celebration in honor of newly renamed street

In honor of civil rights leader and LGBTQ icon Harvey Milk, 900 South in Salt Lake City will be named Harvey Milk Boulevard. Equality Utah is sponsoring an outdoor community event to celebrate this historic occasion and dedicate the street.

WHAT:  Harvey Milk Boulevard dedication and community celebration, including entertainment, music, food trucks and street vendors 

Harvey Milk Boulevard will be dedicated at 11:30 a.m. with Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski, NAACP SLC Chapter President Jeanetta Williams, Equality Utah Executive Director Troy Williams, Forrest Crawford, Longtime Civil Rights Advocate and Weber State Professor, Archie Archuleta, Board of the Utah Coalition of La Raza. SLC's first openly gay council member Stan Penfold will emcee. 

Tyler Glenn will perform two musical numbers.

WHERE:  9th and 9th District in Salt Lake City 

(900 South between 800 and 900 East)

WHO: Equality Utah and hundreds of community members

Harvey Milk has become a true icon for the LGBTQ community. As the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in California, Milkset the standard for coalition building and collaborative leadership that has inspired the entire nation. 

Milk was assassinated in 1978, but his belief in a world where everyone has civil rights and his legacy as a pioneering community leader has endured. In 2009, he was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama. 

“We believe that Harvey’s name on a prominent downtown street will be a beacon of hope to all Utahns,” says Troy Williams, executive director of Equality Utah. “We want to send a message to LGBTQ youth and every marginalized teen that they are loved, they have value and they, like Harvey, can change the world.”

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FAIR IS improved
hate crimes legislation

Since its ratification in 2006, Utah's hate crimes law has rarely, if ever, been used to convict a single offender. Why? The law makes no mention of protected categories. It also never explicitly defines what a hate crime is. Without those specifics, victims don't have a chance of winning a hate crimes conviction. Because of this, we're all at risk.

Hate crimes not only hurt the victim; they harm the psyche of entire groups, creating backdrops of fear where people may feel compelled to hide who and what they are. Any one of us can be targeted because of our race, religion, gender, or sexuality. When someone attacks us because of the community that we represent, a hate crime has been perpetrated.

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LGBTQ minors

Despite being rejected by every mainstream medical organization, "conversion therapy" persists. The effects of this damaging practice can lead to depression, anxiety, and even suicide, and minors are especially vulnerable.

Three states and the District of Columbia have passed laws banning conversion therapy for minors, and 18 more states have introduced similar legislation

It's time to add Utah to the list.

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for everyone

There are real barriers to obtaining health services for transgender people, and many doctors lack transgender health care competency. In a 2012 survey, the NTDS found that almost 20 percent of respondents had been refused medical care outright because of bias.

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