Preston Hilburn has extensive non-profit and management experience. Originally working in the corporate sector, Preston decided in 2013 that it was time to walk a more fulfilling path and began his journey into the non-profit world. During his time at Equality Utah Preston has been able to work with non-profit organizations around the country, from Idaho to Missouri, as they seek to expand protections for the LGBTQ community. Preston serves in many capacities as Programs Director at Equality Utah. During the legislative session he works with Equality Utah's community partners to build strong and lasting coalitions. Throughout the rest of the year, Preston works with candidates around the state to help place strong LGBTQ-affirming leaders into office. He also works with corporations and businesses to help foster more inclusive workplaces. When he isn't out doing his "queer missionary" work, he enjoys snowboarding as well as spending time with his husband Leighton and their two dogs Ezra and Zara.
Troy has over a decade experience as a community organizer for the LGBTQ community. He graduated from the University of Utah with bachelor degrees in both Film Studies and Anthropology. Troy was the community affairs director of 90.9 FM KRCL for ten years. He was the executive producer and host of RadioActive. His work has been featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Salon, The Nation, Interview Magazine, The Gay Times and OUT Magazine. In 2010 the Salt Lake Tribune dubbed him "the gay mayor of Salt Lake City." Troy has appeared on Anderson Cooper 360, Democracy Now! CBC's Q, and the 2012 SHOWTIME special Larry Wilmore's Race, Religion and Sex. In 2009 he co-wrote the one-woman show, The Passion of Sister Dottie S. Dixon. Troy won Utah Broadcaster Association awards in both 2013 and 2014. In 2014 Troy was also a producer on the TLC original series Breaking the Faith. He became the executive director of Equality Utah in September 2014.
DISCLAIMER: Equality Utah does not guarantee these resources. Equality Utah does not endorse any of the listed facilities, service providers or support groups.
Happy New Year! It is with gratitude that we reflect back on the significant accomplishments of the last few years. Many people and organizations have brought us to this moment. We are truly on the cusp of obtaining everything that we've been working toward: equal access to marriage, housing, workplace and public spaces -- essentially every right and protection that comes with being a full citizen of this country. We are so close, we can feel it, but we know there is so much left to accomplish.
So let's get to work.
On January 26th we will once again be ascending Capitol Hill and making our case for full legal inclusion within the state of Utah. Senator Steve Urquhart will again be leading the charge with an LGBT housing and employment bill. You will all recall that the Senate leadership tabled SB100 last year pending the Amendment 3 trial. It was a frustrating, cynical move that led a handful of us being arrested in protest. Now with marriage equality the law of the land, our Legislature simply has no excuse.
Our support is growing. Several national and local corporations, many religious congregations, and a majority of Utahns are all on our side. Now is the time to have this legislation heard and passed. We will need all of you during this critical time to contact your representatives, write letters to the editor, show up to rallies and throw your support behind this effort. Our objective is simple: we want existing state laws updated to protect gay and transgender Utahns from discrimination. It's the fair and just thing to do.
In addition, Senator Jim Dabakis will also be introducing new legislation this session that will allow our community equal access to public accommodations. We believe that businesses open to the public should be open to everyone, including LGBT Utahns. Nobody should be denied service simply because of who they are and who they love.
We also anticipate that some legislators will try to use "religious liberty" as a smokescreen to further codify LGBT discrimination into state law. We will challenge and defeat any attempt to do so. We know that LGBT rights can coexist with religious liberty. The two need not be in conflict. All of our proposed legislation includes fair and reasonable exemptions for religious institutions. Despite the fears expressed by some legislators, we respect every faith's right to free speech and expression.
Our efforts will always focus on equal access to the public sphere and equal protection under civil law.
The Equality Utah office was busy during the last month of 2014. In conjunction with the Utah Pride Center, the ACLU of Utah and Marriage Equality USA we threw an anniversary party on December 20th to commemorate the historic decision that established the freedom to marry in Utah. It was a joyful occasion marked with speeches by plaintiffs Derek Kitchen, Kate Call, and Kody Partridge. Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill read a poem that he wrote for the occasion and attorney Peggy Tomsic also addressed the crowd.
Mayor Ralph Becker also declared December 20th, "Freedom to Marry Day".
Enjoy photos from the event here.
The speeches concluded with Rev. Patty Willis who toasted to the married couples and spoke of the importance of sharing our stories to change hearts and minds. Read coverage from the Deseret News here.
I also sat down with our board member Marina Gomberg to craft an op-ed for the Salt Lake Tribune commemorating the historic day. We wanted to weave this moment into the larger tapestry of social justice movements. We wrote:
"As we tell our stories of coming out and finding love, we should also listen to the stories of people whose skin color differs from ours, people who celebrate different holidays, and people who live in different places. And, for that matter, we should listen to scientists — especially the ones who research the quality of our air and the future of our planet. We should give more and take less, love more and consume less, learn more and presume less."
You can read the entire op-ed here.
Over 100 supporters gathered in St. George on New Year's Eve to support Equality Utah in a fundraiser for the Foundation. We enjoyed tarot card readers, a DJ dance floor and a spirited toast to even more equality in 2015. By a show of hands, half of the attendees had never been to an Equality Utah event. Associate director Nicole Christensen and event organizer Linda Stay talked with the gathered crowd about our mission and the work ahead.
The annual Southern Utah Celebration Dinner will light up St. George on May 9th. We look forward to seeing you there.
Coming next week to your mailbox! Equality Utah's 2015 Calendar is here. This year features a series of stunning community portraits from David Newkirk. He captured the beauty of legally married parents, high school GSA students, lesbian feminists, transgender Mormons, Queer Nation activists, straight allies, The Bad Kids Collective and so many more. Additional copies will be available at the Equality Utah office. Enjoy this sneak peek of January.
Need a new book to dive into? I've been enjoying "You Can Tell Just By Looking" And 20 Other Myths About LGBT Life and People from Michael Bronski, Ann Pellegrini and Michael Amico. This scholarly and accessible book breaks apart several deeply held myths about our community. The volume intelligently tackles many issues that are particularly challenging in Utah, including myths like: "LGBT Parents are Bad for Children", "Gay Rights Infringe on Religious Liberty" and "Transgender People are Gay."
If you are interested in these topics, and are looking for intelligent talking points while you are writing your next letter to the editor or preparing to lobby your state representative, please give it a read.
From the introduction:
"There are no easy, and often no definitive answers for enacting change in the world. The bottom line is that being gay or lesbian or bisexual or transgender is part of being human, and simple being human is very complicated... Moreover, because myths are a central means for how LGBT people understand themselves as sexual beings we want people in the LGBT community to question their own beliefs and why they hold them. Individuals, like cultures, can hold conflicting understandings of sexuality and gender. Admitting the inconsistencies of our own selves, rather than insisting on quick and easy answers, can generate new and unheard of possibilities for living in the world."
Serving as the executive director for these past three months has been a tremendous experience. I still feel a little green but the support from our community has been incredible. The enthusiasm of our staff and board has also been inspiring. Everybody here in the office is fired up and ready to achieve great things in 2015.
Thank you for taking an active role in our movement.
Time moves quickly when you are doing what you love. The short six weeks I've spent as your executive director have been exhilarating. What an exciting time for all of us to be engaged in this work. I have truly been impressed by the caliber of Equality Utah's members and volunteers. You are fiercely dedicated to creating a more fair and just state.
And it shows!
We've crunched the numbers. Before Election Day, our volunteers made 7,900 "Get Out the Vote" calls. By tracking voter data we discovered that 63% of Equality Utah members went to the polls. Compare that to 28% of our state who actually voted! You are an engaged, informed and dedicated electorate. You elected 19 of our endorsed candidates to public office. That is a record number for Equality Utah. Your passion and commitment made an impact in several key races. Thank you.
November was a month that Equality Utah collaborated with TEA of Utah and the Utah Pride Center and other organizers to elevate and honor the lives of our transgender brothers and sisters. On the Transgender Day of Remembrance we had the opportunity to gather together in a silent vigil at the Utah State Capitol. We stood in solidarity and rang bells to remember our community members throughout the world who lost their lives to violence.
As we mourned the loss of those who have passed, we also celebrated the lives of those in our community. We celebrated with TEA during their Transgender Day of Celebration. Our staff members Owen and Preston continued to provide education and outreach by participating in the Transgender Health Summit at the University of Utah and the GendeRevolution conference with the Utah Pride Center.
Utah's transgender community continues to rise in strength and prominence. Our goal is to lift up all Utahns by sharing stories, training advocates and opening hearts and minds.
Our work continues in Southern Utah. Owen and Preston traveled to St. George to help local organizers testify before the city council on the importance of a municipal ordinance that would protect LGBT Utahns from being evicted from their home or fired from their job due to their sexual orientation or gender identity. Matthew James Jacobsen led the charge, surrounded by friends dressed in red. He was countered by both the Eagle Forum and the Sutherland Institute. Watch Matthew's courageous testimony here. Equality Utah is continuing to work with supporters in St. George to encourage the city council to take action.
With 2015 just around the corner, we have been busy getting the Equality Utah calendar ready. Here are is an outtake of Megan Hall and Heather Thomas from the recent photo shoot (courtesy of David Newkirk) for the upcoming 2015 calendar, which will be ready in a few weeks.
"It will never happen in Utah". How many times have we heard that cynical phrase? I don't believe it. Utah was the first state in the nation to overturn a marriage ban. That alone proves that anything and everything can happen in Utah. But it takes all of us working together to make change a reality.
I was recently moved by a trio of short films from Academy Award winning filmmaker Errol Morris. His "Three Short Films About Peace" series in the New York Times highlighted the work of remarkable individuals whose efforts created dynamic change in their communities. Morris featured Leymah Gbowee, who led a group of Liberian women to oust a brutal dictator, Lech Walesa, a Polish shipyard worker who fought back against Communist control, and musician Bob Geldof who brought famine relief to millions by organizing LIVE AID.
Watch their remarkable stories here.
Change can and does happen in the most unlikely of places. We know that change is possible in Utah. We see it every day. Dialogue is happening, hearts are opening, and love is expanding.
As always, it is your continued financial support that makes all of this work possible. Your monthly donation allows us to build our base of support, lobby our legislators and draft the legislation that will create the world all want to see. Thank you for your support. Thank you for your encouragement. Thank you for always raising your voice.
Great days lie ahead for all of us.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Troy Williams, Executive Director
"We Are Utah" series to educate on the lived experiences of transgender people in our state
Salt Lake City, UT – November 3, 2014 – Equality Utah is proud to formally launch its new video series entitled, "We Are Utah: Transgender Lives in the Beehive State" as part of the organization's Transgender Awareness Project, a broad based public education campaign to help elevate, empower, and humanize the real lived experience of transgender Utahns and their families.
After a soft launch at the Utah Film Center's Damn! These Heels Film Festival, one of the videos about a transgender boy, Grayson, and his Mormon mother, Neca, caught the attention of the Advocate.com adding a quick 10,000 views to the YouTube video in days.
Another of the videos featured the story of Candice Metzler, a member of the Equality Utah Board of Directors, and brought tears to the eyes of the nearly 2000 people at the Equality Utah Allies Dinner in September. Metzler lived more than 30 years not understanding what it was she was experiencing and not having a way to articulate the feelings of disaccord between her physical body and what was going on in her mind. Her process of coming to understand that and to transition was not an easy road and included suicide attempts and homelessness, but also included the reconciliation with her family through education and love.
"The lived experiences of transgender Utahns varies widely, and yet many of the hardships and triumphs are the same," said Owen Smith, Manager of Community Programs for Equality Utah. "It is our hope that through this thoughtful storytelling, we can shed light on the lives of transgender Utahns to pave the way for more inclusive laws and policies for all Utahns."
Equality Utah's Transgender Awareness Project will continue to produce and release "We Are Utah" films in the coming months.
The "We Are Utah" videos are filmed and edited by Reelboy Productions and are made with the support of local transgender community leaders TEA of Utah, Utah Pride Center, PFLAG, OUTREACH, the LGBT Resource Center at the University of Utah, and Mormons Building Bridges.
For more questions, please contact Candice Metzler at 801-544-4943 or Owen Smith at 443-854-1191.
# # #
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 LGBT Utahns and their families, and its vision is of a fair and just Utah. For more information, please visit equalityutah.org.
A note from interim Executive Director Marina Gomberg:
This has been an extraordinary couple of months! Our organization, our state, and our movement have experienced profound change (I write to you now as a forever legally married woman!), and it's been an incredible honor to work alongside you all through it.
I'd like to acknowledge the tireless work of the staff, the Boards of Directors, the Executive Director Search Committee, and our Allies Dinner team during this transition. I'd also like the thank you, our major donors, for reaching out to express your continued support, providing us critical feedback at pivotal moments, and for your ongoing generous support of this vital work.
And as I pass the proverbial torch between our deeply revered Brandie and highly anticipated Troy, I can't help but acknowledge just how rich our history has been and how remarkably bright our future looks.
With that, I'll let Equality Utah's new Executive Director, Troy Williams, update you on our work.
I look forward to continuing working for a fair and just Utah as I rejoin the Board of Directors.
Interim Executive Director
Thank you Marina. What an honor to serve as the new executive director of Equality Utah. I am so excited for the work ahead of us. Our staff has truly been feeling this tremendous momentum. Here is what we've been doing.
On October 6, 2014, Utah Unites for Marriage had a rally that drew 450 people to celebrate marriages beginning again. The plaintiffs from Kitchen v. Herbert , Sen. Jim Dabakis, Karen McCreary from the ACLU-Utah all spoke to the gathered crowd and Marina emceed. It was a vibrant, exciting night that celebrated marriage equality finally arriving in the beehive state.
While Utah Unites for Marriage as a coalition is coming to an end, Equality Utah will continue lifting up stories of benefits to couples that are married, as well as showcasing how marriage strengthens LGBT families in Utah. We still need to work together so that Utahns can feel ready for this new landscape as we move forward.
We are also excited to announce the official launch of the Transgender Awarenes Project. We have released two videos in a new ongoing series that introduces our transgender family to the rest of the state. You can watch and share the stories of Equality Utah board member Candice Metzler as well as Grayson and his mother Neca. These moving films produced by ReelBoy Productions will help build empathy and compassion throughout Utah.
Equality Utah will be celebrating Transgender Awareness Month all throughout November. We will be participating in the Utah Pride Center's GendeRevolution conference on Nov. 15th. We will also be supporting the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance on Nov. 20th.
Over the past month our Community Programs Manager, Owen Smith has been busy advocating for the transgender community on the talk radio circuit. He has recently appeared on NPR Boise State Public Radio, as well as 90.9 FM KRCL (with our own Sara Jade Woodhouse) and ALT 94.9 here in Salt Lake City. Owen has a tremendous gift for articulating the lived experiences of transgender Americans. His thoughtful commentary is truly opening the hearts and minds of people throughout Utah.
We've also been keeping our Field Coordinator Preston Hilburn extremely busy. From Provo to Moab, he has been traveling all over the state reaching out to new supporters. Preston organized over 25 volunteer actions this past 2 months and engaged over 55 volunteers. From those actions we have made over 7,000 dials collected over 1,500 post cards to our legislators. We have also gained over 70 new signatures on the faith coalition letter and 4 new faith leaders. We have also found 5 new businesses who are LGBT supportive.
We are also excited to welcome Nicole Christensen as our new Associate Director. Nicole led our endorsement process and has been guiding the Utah Unites for Marriage coalition for the past nine months. With our recent marriage victory, we have an opportunity now to utilize Nicole's skills in new areas of our organization.
Thank you all for making the 2014 Equality Utah Allies Dinner a huge success. What a phenomenal night!
We were all electrified by Laverne Cox's energy and vibrant personality. Her message challenged and inspired all of us. You can re-watch and share Laverne's comments now on YouTube.
We also again want to recognize our awardees, Affirmation, American Express, District Attorney Sim Gill and Mayor Ralph Becker. They have all made tremendous strides to honor and improve the lives of Utah's LGBT Community.
Have you had a chance to vote? Equality Utah 2014 list of endorsed candidates is now available. Early and mail in voting is now in progress. You can see and share a list of our endorsed candidates. By voting for an equality-minded candidate, you make a difference in your community by voting for fairness and opportunity for all.
Where do we go from here? Perhaps the hardest work is still to come. Here at Equality Utah, we have no intention of taking it easy. On the contrary, our objective is nothing less than full legal equality in all areas governed by civil law. Even though we now enjoy marriage equality, we can still be fired from our jobs or evicted from our homes, simply because of who we are and who we love. We will not rest until all Utahns enjoy full equal protection under the law. So it's time to get busy. We are gearing up for a robust and active presence during the 2015 Legislative session.
We can't do any of this without you
Thank you for being a Capitol Club member of Equality Utah. Your monthly contribution made all of the above possible. The victories that we have enjoyed belong to all of us. Every time you raise your voice for equality, every time you engage your family and friends, every time you donate to Equality Utah, you move this work forward.
Together, we will continue to achieve great things.
Thank you for your support,
Executive Director, Equality Utah
It is an incredible honor to update you on the work of Equality Utah!
We have received many strong applications for our Executive Director position—not only from here in Utah, but also from across the United States. As a result, we now have an outstanding pool of candidates, and we are vetting them through a thorough and rigorous process. In the coming weeks, we very much look forward to introducing you to our next leader, who will carry us forward to victory in the Supreme Court and beyond.
September is shaping up to be a very exciting month. Things kick off with next weekend's Speaking Through Faith summit hosted in Provo, and then we'd love to see our Utah County friends at our booth at the 2nd Annual Provo Pride on September 20. Of course, next we've got our very own Allies Dinner on September 26 featuring the resplendent Laverne Cox. And then we'll round out the month at Moab Pride.
August hasn't lacked for action or accomplishment either; here's a brief look at our work during this last month.
Opportunity for All – Our work to establish a non-discrimination ordinance in Sandy saw great success as we rallied support from even more coalition partners. In August, we added multiple new small businesses and faith organizations to our rapidly expanding list of partners! In addition to our work in Sandy, we have officially got boots on the ground now in Draper as well, beginning our work there to provide essential housing and workplace protections for gay and transgender residents.
Transgender Awareness Project – In order to continue raising the visibility of the experiences transgender Utahns, we began working with the Utah Pride Center and community members to put on this year's GendeRevolution conference coming up in November that will foster community building, provide education, and celebrate trans* identities.
We also had the chance to work with the Road Home, a nonprofit that assists individuals and families experiencing homelessness in Salt Lake County and along the Wasatch Front, to provide guidance on their policies regarding transgender homeless people seeking shelter. The Road Home has recently received an influx of transgender visitors, so this work is not only timely but incredibly important. It also lays the groundwork for future support on more trans*-inclusive policies as they relate to public services.
Utah Unites for Marriage – We have been working to identify and empower those thousands of Utah families who have been profoundly harmed by Amendment 3. By elevating these people's experiences, we and our coalition partners have helped shed light on the multitude of reasons why marriage matters so significantly to so many, in so many ways. If you or someone you know has experienced hardship or harm (with benefits, insurance, access to a partner or child, retirement, social security, etc.), and would be willing to share your story, please contact Nikki Christensen at Equality Utah.
We are also bringing together a coalition of Utah lawyers who stand united in support of marriage, to illustrate to the broader community that an overwhelming majority of the legal community stands behind us. If you or a lawyer you know might be interested in signing on, we've created a simple online form to facilitate your joining us.
Allies Dinner – The Salt Palace ballroom will be mighty full on September 26 when we host Emmy-nominated, Time Magazine cover woman, Laverne Cox. If you haven't already purchased your table or ticket, I'd recommend doing that soon, as we are likely to sell out in no time at all. We look forward to seeing you!
Equality Utah PAC Endorsements – This month, our schedules have been packed full of interviews with candidates who are seeking Equality Utah's endorsement this year. It was a pleasure to connect with them and see the growing number of candidates in our state who are both educated on and supportive of our issues. We will be announcing our endorsement slate in the coming weeks, so please keep an eye out for that in your inboxes and mailboxes.
Lastly, I just want to thank you all for your continued support of our work; it is your generosity that fuels the progress and change in our state, and for that you have my deepest appreciation.
As always, I welcome your emails and calls should you want to connect.
Working for a fair and just Utah,
Interim Executive Director
The time has come for me to write my last Executive Director's report to you, and while it is bittersweet, I know that this is just the beginning of wonderful things to come. This is a perfect moment for change - the Board is strong and visionary, the staff are experts in their work, the organization is financially and structurally sound, and Utah is in the spotlight! The last five years have been nothing short of extraordinary. So many changes, so many challenges, and so many wins! I believe we will see even greater change in the coming years, and Equality Utah will be here, leading the charge to realizing a fair and just Utah. We have made it this far, together, through your unyielding support of this crucially important work, and we will lead into the future thanks to you, too.
I am profoundly grateful to have had the opportunity to serve as the Executive Director of Equality Utah, to work with you, learn from you, and create change with you.
I want to thank you personally for your support, for your love, and for your belief in the direction of Equality Utah. Thank you for showing up, standing up, and speaking out. Thank you for your constructive feedback and your counsel and praise. Though it is difficult to write this last report, I know this will not be the end of our association. I am hoping to see you all at the Allies Dinner; this will mark my seventh and last year on the stage, and it would be wonderful to have you there with me.
While this transition has had a profound personal impact, I know that this isn't about me, or any single person - it is about the community, the work, and the organization. It is our collective will, drive, and spirit that moves this work forward; the next chapter of our history is ready to be writ large in our nation's story of LGBT equality. And while I won't be writing the upcoming ED reports, I will be reading them along with you, as Lisa and I are proud to remain Capitol Club members.
I could not be more optimistic about the future. I am incredibly confident in our Board, our staff and our talented and capable Interim Director, Marina Gomberg - and am thrilled to hand the symbolic pen to her to update you on the happenings of the last month.
It is an honor to be writing you with updates about the goings-on here at Equality Utah. Getting to spend time in the office every day to ensure our continued momentum has already been an extraordinary experience! I can assure you that our bright and dedicated staff members are rising to this occasion, and working with incredible expertise and efficiency.
Likewise, our Board of Directors is moving thoughtfully through its search process for our next bold and thoughtful leader. As you may know, they are taking applications until August 8, and we would so appreciate you sharing the posting with those who might be interested. Let us find the very best candidates out there!
Our work on the education front is seeing incredible success!
Our Transgender Action Project proudly debuted its new mini-documentary series, "We Are Utah" during the Damn! These Heels film festival and was a big hit! In fact, the Advocate picked up and shared one of the films. View and share the films here (and keep an eye out for more films to come):
Our Opportunity for All campaign is continuing to increase momentum! For example, our voter outreach and community events in Sandy have increased our support pool there by more than 400 percent! This means thousands of new folks have joined our movement to provide employment and housing protections for LGBT Utahns. We are also very pleased to have identified and engaged several small businesses and affirming faith organizations in Sandy who stand with us in support of our important work.
Currently, we have three staff members attending the Equality Federation's Annual Summer meeting hosted in Minneapolis, MN. Not only are they learning from and collaborating with our partner organizations across the country, they continue to bring visibility to the incredible work we are doing right here in Utah.
Also, many of you know that we recently engaged a group to help us make outreach calls to our membership. These calls had both an educational focus and a fundraising component. They were a great learning experience for us, and we want to acknowledge that things didn't go exactly according to plan. Please know that we are working to refine that process before moving forward with it, and we thank you for your patience and feedback along the way.
Finally, for those who might have missed our Decision Day Rally, you can see photos of the moving event here. And, in Evans v. Utah, the 10th Circuit ruled mid-July that Utah hadn't proven that the appeals court should stay a lower court's ruling requiring the state to recognize the marriages that were performed here in Utah this last winter. The state had ten days to appeal, and did. The Supreme Court then granted Utah's request for a stay, allowing the state to avoid - at least for now - having to recognize the couples that were married in the window. The stay was granted without opinion and the same-sex couples married during December and January are still "on hold" in the eyes of the state. For now...
Of course, when you have Emmy-nominated, Time cover woman and star of the Netflix series "Orange is the New Black" Laverne Cox as the keynote speaker – tables go quickly. If you have not yet purchased your table, you can click here to purchase now and join us for what will be one of the most moving and celebratory events of the year!
We are also working with our national partners and Sen. Urquhart to secure our 2015 lobbying team. We look forward to bringing on the best to help us continue to make positive change.
Finally, we are proud to add our voice to those in support of the Department of Labor's Notice of Proposed Rulemaking proposing a revision to the definition of spouse for purposes of leave eligibility under the Family and Medical Leave Act – this change would be a meaningful step toward providing equal access to critical federal benefits for workers nationwide.
It's endorsement time and we are in the thick of scheduling candidate interviews! We invite interested community members to reach out to Nikki Christensen, our manager of political and civic engagement, to sign up to participate in the interviews currently being scheduled for the weeks of August 11 and August 18. We invite your participation in helping us identify those candidates who will help move our important work forward.
If you have any questions about our work, I would love to hear from you. You can reach me at or 801.355.3470.
Working for a fair and just Utah,
Testimony regarding SB100, Feb 26, 2014
My name is Clair. I appreciate your time today.
I’m a pretty typical Utahan.
I live in Draper. I work for a multi-level marketing company; I attend church each week. I taught Gospel Doctrine this past Sunday.
I’d like to tell you about my nephew - who lost his job - because he was gay.
My nephew shares the same culture that I do. When he was a young boy, he insisted on being dressed like a Mormon Missionary when he went to church -- with a suite and a tie – and even insisted on having a name-tag.
Today he is a bright young man, with a bright future-- attending a local University -- majoring in biogenetic engineering. He’s smart – and I hope he stays in Utah after he graduates.
Not being the kind of guy to burden others with his problems - he didn’t tell us when he lost his job. One of his co-workers shared his story.
My nephew was a good worker. He worked at a bookstore for 2 ½ years. When a new worker found out he was gay, he complained to management. Apparently working with a gay person was something this person did not want to do.
We don’t know how far up the management chain this person had to go, but he found a sympathetic ear. Later that week my nephew was terminated from his job – not for doing a poor job – not for being unprofessional – not for any good reason – except for being gay.
This does not feel right to me.
When I grew up, I learned at church that you’re supposed to treat everyone fairly.
When I was young, my parents taught me how to work hard – and that if I did – I would do well in my job.
As an adult, I still hold those values – but wonder why my nephew lost his job. He is a hard worker. He treats others with respect. But he lost his job – for no other reason than being himself.
I would like to ask you a favor. When you consider this bill – and others like it – will you remember this story – about my nephew.
Thank you for your time.
My name is Justin Utley, and I was born and raised in West Valley City, Utah, the middle of 3 boys. My life growing up in west Jordan was much like you can imagine. School, church, basketball games, bbqs, and an occasional bad grade… or two. Lets just say chemistry isn’t my best subject.
Since the age of 10 I knew that I was gay. As easy it is to say that today, at the time it was the hardest thing I had ever faced. I felt alone, isolated, and I didn’t have anyone or anywhere to turn to. I confided in my bishop, and soon after I began reparative therapy to try and deny the person I knew I was. After much heartache, much prayer, and many failed attempts I decided that it was up to me to forge a path of my own to find happiness.
The journey to begin to love and accept myself was not an easy one, but once I took a chance and opened my heart I met and fell in love with someone that would change my life forever. Meeting Brent was one of the best things that could have ever happened to me. Seeing his love, his warmth, and kindness reflected back at me throughout the course of our relationship is something that I can always carry with me in my heart.
At the time that Brent and I were together I was still only out to my bishop and a couple of close friends. Brent and I had a quiet life together. We would go out to dinner, watch movies, and plan our future together. One day after work I received a email from Brent’s brother letting me know that Brent had suffered a very sudden and unexpected heart attack and had passed away. Words cannot express what reading those words in that email felt like. In one instant, my quiet life…in love… came to an end.
I went to work the next day still in denial of what had just happened. I had to carry the weight of my grief alone. In silence. I received emails from one of the few close friends that I was out to and who knew about Brent. I wanted to attend his funeral, but couldn’t since neither of us was out to our families.
Shortly afterward, the president of the credit union where I worked called me into her office, and told me we needed to discuss something very serious. She told me she had been monitoring and reading my emails, and asked me if I was gay. I told her yes, but this had nothing to do with my job. She replied that it did, that had they known I was gay during the interview process, they would not have hired me. She mentioned that there was a woman more qualified than me who had interviewed for my position, but that they didn't offer her the job because they had seen one of those equal sign stickers on her car and assumed she was a lesbian. She said she wasn't judging my lifestyle, but that she preferred to not have people "like me" working there. She also told me she could give me 2 weeks to find another job but that I could no longer continue to work there past that point.
Within the course of those couple of weeks I lost my job, the person I loved, and my faith in a community which left me vulnerable to someone’s personal prejudice. My self worth plummeted, and life became very very dark. This was an extremely low point where I strongly considered taking my life. I could not escape the fact that no matter where I lived or worked, my orientation would be under scrutiny, socially, and professionally, and legally…. there was nothing I could do about it.
I am standing here alive today because of three things. First, because of the unconditional support of a wonderful mother, who refused to allow me to continue to believe I wasn't worth loving. The rest of the members of my family soon followed suit. All of them were taken back not only by my coming out, but also that gay & transgender Uthans are vulnerable to unfair employment and housing discrimination.
Second, are some of the most amazing, thoughtful, and patient friends, who challenged me to not become a victim of these experiences, but to instead draw on them as a fuel to fix the broken system that allows these things to happen.
And lastly, it is because I am still a proud Utahn, born and raised with the values, the compassion, the optimism that Utah IS the place where every person has the same opportunity to earn a living free from discrimination. There is a spoke in the wheel of diversity that needs to be fixed. My orientation, much like my race, gender, or ethnicity, is not a choice. It is simply a part of what defines us and our relationships, and the members of our families. Stories like mine are not few or far between. Even just today, a friend that lives in Provo, who works construction, who was just told by his boss that if the foreman found out he was gay, he would lose his job.
Today most gay & transgender Utahns not only bring a briefcase to work, but many bring a closet as well as fear of being legally discriminated against for reasons that have nothing to do with their job performance.
My hope is that together…from this moment on….. we can build a bridge of understanding and begin to work together to build a state that we can all be proud of.
My name is Kai Martinez. Thanks you for inviting me here tonight. I’m a transgender Utahan. I work for the U of U, I am a parent, friend, neighbor, tax payer, and partner to a beautiful kind woman.
When I was 10 years old, in search of better employment and a promising future for my three siblings and I, my parents made the decision to move from their rule Colorado town and relocate us to Utah. With the blessing from my grandmother and the support of my father’s boss who was of the Mormon faith, we were loaded into a Chevy impala and all our belongings were packed into borrowed laundry truck, and we caravanned the 391.7 to Utah.
My parents could have picked any state to start over…CA, NM, WY, MO or the city of Denver, CO. But my father loved Utah. As a boy he had fond memories of living in Utah County with his family while his father worked at Geneva Steal. He believed Utah held the key to a good life for his family.
As a child, I always wanted to be like my father…I tried to walk him, dress like him, talk like him, fish like him and be as handsome as he was. While I was born female and raised as girl, I always knew that there was something unique about me. I was my dad’s little boy, his buddy. He knew I was different and I know that scared him. He feared for my safety, for my well-being. He loved me fiercely.
On June 25, 2012, my father passed away at the age of 73 with Parkinson’s Disease. He had lost the capacity to walk, eat, talk and bath himself. Yet…HE never lost the capacity to listen and express love through his eyes. The spring before he died, I informed him that I had changed my birth name to a name that fit my masculine identity. I had been on male hormones for a few months and had undergone chest reconstructed the year before. He knew that day would come.
In that moment with all the energy he could muster up, he leaned forward with his hands out and tears in his eyes and said “I love you…I all of you…and I am proud of you”.
A week after he passed my mother sat me down and said I have something for you. She left the room and came back with my father’s shaving kit in her hands. As she extended it to me she said “this is for you he wanted you to have it.” As I unzipped it, the smell of his cologne embraced my heart. I could see remnants of his facial trimmings at the bottom of the kit. It was his way of telling me to be proud, be happy and content with who I was.
My father loved Utah…ALL of Utah! He loved the valley, the mountains, the people and especially the fishing. My father loved me…all of me. He wanted me to be safe, to feel welcomed and like I belonged. As a trans-masculine Utahan, please understand that my father trusted the state of Utah to embrace all his children.
As public servants I encourage all of you to leave a legacy that honors all Utahans regardless of gender identity, expression, and sexual orientation. Remember…my father took a chance on you….on Utah….you all have the trusted authority of the people of Utah to make sure that we live in a state where we can all frequent public spaces without fear of being turned away or harmed. I am a proud trans-masculine Utahan. Thanks you.