Good evening! My name is Rachel Heller and I am honored and humbled to be here tonight to introduce myself to this distinguished audience.
I moved to Centerville from Texas shortly after 9/11 because I had a strong desire to utilize my skills and talents as an aerospace engineer in support of our troops. With some trepidation I left a promising job and longtime friends to come to work at Hill AFB in support of the Global War on Terror. After only a short while I felt confident that I had made the correct decision. I felt warmly embraced by my Air Force coworkers and by the Wingman brotherhood we shared. I count my years of experience in Utah as some of the most satisfying and memorable of my 25 year career. My coworkers, many of whom teach at the University of Utah, encouraged me to go back to school, and in 2011 I earned my Master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering. As of today, I am one class short of completing the coursework toward my Ph.D.
Despite my career successes and personal achievements, I felt a growing uneasiness inside of me. I felt this anxiety because I withheld a fundamental truth about myself from my friends and coworkers, a characteristic about myself that I feared might overshadow all of my accomplishments. A truth that I feared might compromise more than my job, but the trust and honor I had established among my wingmen. You see, I was born Randal Heller, but today I stand before you as Rachel Heller, the person I have always known myself to be. A transgender person is someone whose sex at birth is opposite from what they know they are on the inside.
Perhaps my greatest fear was that I would no longer be judged by the strength of my character or by the evidence of my accomplishments, but that my life would be seen through a filter of my gender identity that would strip away every other trait by which I identify.
My fears about revealing my authentic self to my coworkers proved to be unfounded. I was embraced, literally and figuratively, at my job.
However, despite the love and acceptance I felt from my Air Force family, each night as I drove out of the well-guarded gates at work, I felt a new anxiety, a new uneasiness. I knew that my patriotism, my efforts, and my accomplishments were invisible to people outside the base. I didn’t feel the same comforting assurances I so appreciated at work. I knew that, by living my authentic life, I put myself at risk for discrimination. It became possible that although my employer and my country valued my personal contributions, that my state might allow someone to deny me such basic necessities of life such as housing.
I believe that most Utahns share some common ideals such as hard work and self-sufficiency. I desire nothing more than to be able to live and work in the state I call home, to support and defend the country I love, and to do so knowing that who I am will not deny me the opportunities I have worked hard to create.
Thank you for your kind attention.
First of all, I’d like to thank you for being here today and letting me share my story with you. I know there many who wish they could speak today and I feel humbled to be here before you, so Thank you.
My Name is Candice Green, this is my daughter Quinn. I have lived my entire live here in Utah. I love this state. I’m a teacher at Granger High school. I teach 7 classes instead of 6, because kids keep transferring from other teachers to be in my class. I have over 45 students in each class. I make learning fun, AND my students have great test scores. I’m a great teacher.
I’ve lived my entire life in Utah, I was raised in a loving LDS family. I served an LDS mission in Santiago, Chile. In my LDS upbringing, we were taught to cherish family and to support and love each other no matter what. This love for family made me long for a day when I could marry, have children, and create a family of my own.
On December 20th, 2013, I was finally able to have my family recognized by the State of Utah.
You see, at a very young age, my parents started to notice that I was different, I had no idea. I was too busy building tree house forts and making jumps for my bike, while other girls had boy bands posters on the wall. It wasn’t until college, that I started to figure it out.
I came out to my brother first; now, you have to understand: My brother is the most conservative, Tea-party Republican that I know. I told him that I was scared that I might be gay.
I expected him to be disgusted and to talk me out of it, but he didn’t. He smiled. He told me that he already knew. He said that he had wanted to talk to me about it for years, but he didn’t want to put the idea in my head if he was wrong. He was a great support for me.
As I told each member of my family, I was treated with love. My family used the LDS teachings we grew up with as a pillar of strength for us all. They didn’t try to change me. They didn’t preach, they just showered me with love. I am so blessed to have them.
Being gay, I used to fear that I would never have a family, that I could never be a mother.
My wife is a teacher too. We saved money for a long time to have our daughter. She is both of ours. Our daughter is six months old today. She is the most precious thing that God has given to me. I want her to feel loved and protected everywhere. Not only in our home.
I hope for daughter to have the same protections that other kids have. Sadly, because she has gay parents, there are many opportunities that she cannot have here in Utah.
In times of emergency, our family is vulnerable through the law. We could lose our jobs or our housing.
I was evicted once in college for being gay. I could handle that, but I have a daughter now and a family. I can’t imagine putting her through that.
Not having this protection in Utah, my home, scares me so much.
If my daughter or I are ever hospitalized with severe trauma, I want my wife to be at her bedside. I want our daughter to be able to inherit our money. In cases of divorce, I want both of her mothers held financially responsible for her. Together, we brought her into the world. And together, we should both be legally responsible for her care.
Please don’t punish my daughter her for who her parents are.
She has a world of support, security and love from our LDS families. Please help her have the same security through the law.
I am speaking for myself, my daughter, and the students who come to us with tear filled eyes, terrified for their futures in this state. People can be mean to us, but people can be kind too.
I’ve heard you say that you want to protect children. I believe you, so please start with ours.
As I sat down to write this, I took a few moments to look back on past reports I have sent you. It's remarkable how much has changed - in the last 10 years, 5 years - even in the last week with that extraordinary 10th Circuit decision. Through your investment in and commitment to securing equal rights and protections for LGBT Utahns, we have come a long way. I am proud of what we have accomplished together and also acutely aware of all we have left to do. As the heat of Summer comes on and we focus in on our endorsements, local policy passage and community engagement - I wanted to take a moment to send you an update on the work, as well as say thank you.
As this reaches your inbox I am travelling to Los Angeles for the annual Political Outgiving conference. This is the second time in as many months that Equality Utah has been invited to present to movement leaders and supporters about our work in a religious, red state. You have heard me say it before, and it bears repeating, the movement for equality is now focused in states like ours. Thanks to your investment in Equality Utah, we are on the forefront of the work in the heartland. We are accepting invitations from across the country to present on our strategies, lessons learned and plans to win.
I wish I could say the delay on this report was a pre-planned April Fool's joke, but alas, it wasn't. It wasn't my intern either... March just ended before I knew it. It was another month full of incredible movement for LGBT rights across the nation. Here in Utah we put another Legislative Session to rest, drove unprecedented numbers of supporters to become delegates and launched a public education campaign for marriage.
Senator Stephen Urquhart of Washington County is the champion of our nondiscrimination bill. S.B. 262, Housing and Employment Antidiscrimination Amendments, has been released and has been sent to the Senate Rules Committee. With so much attention around our bill, we’d like to take a moment to explain exactly what the bill does and does not do, who is impacted, and why the bill is needed.
Passage of S.B. 262 is an economic issue. In Utah, we value self-reliance, hard work, and determination. Gay and transgender Utahns who are evicted or fired unfairly struggle to provide for themselves and their families. Moreover, businesses looking to grow or relocate to Utah want to know the state values its entire workforce. Many of the states top companies- those we laud for their impact on our economy- favor the passage of a statewide bill. This includes CHG, Ancestry.com, eBay, and 1-800-CONTACTS.
We’ve worked hard to get this bill right. We’ve met with all the stakeholders, we’ve listened to our friends and our opposition, and now we are ready to run with our bill. But we have a lot more work to do before this bill is the law. We are committed to preventing discrimination in housing and employment and we will not rest until these protections apply to all Utahns. Stay tuned for more updates.
Working together for a fair and just Utah,
Employment Discrimination against LGBT Utahns
Utah does not have a statewide law that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in employment. This report gathers together all existing data on the prevalence of discrimination in Utah to examine how frequently lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Utahns experience employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and assess the likely impact of passing a statewide nondiscrimination law.
The report begins by analyzing the data collected through a 2010 survey conducted by Equality Utah, which is the state’s first survey on discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in employment. The data show that employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity is a pervasive and persistent problem in Utah, as it is in other states. Forty-three percent of the LGB respondents and 67% of the transgender respondents reported that they have experienced discrimination in employment.
Each Year Utahns daily lives are directly impacted by bills that are passed during the legislative session. Equality Utah vigilantly combs through almost a 1000 different pieces of legislation each year to oppose bills that could potentially encroach on the basic freedoms that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rightfully deserve or to lead the way in proposing or supporting legislation that would secure measures that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression in employment, housing, or public accommodation. Equality Utah will update this bill list as bills are amended or language becomes available.
Work Place and Housing Equity
Bill #: S.B. 262 Housing and Employment Antidiscrimination Amendments
General Description: This bill prevents discrimination in housing and employment based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Position: Support Status: Filed
Bill #: H.J.R. 1 Joint Resolution Expressing Support for the Utah Compact
General Description: This joint resolution of the Legislature expresses support for the Utah Compact. This bill expresses support for the Utah Compact and its guiding principles that can positively impact the tone of the immigration discussion within the state.
Position: Support Status: Filed
Bill#: HB 253 Employment Verification Amendments
General Description: This bill modifies commerce and trade, and general government provisions, to address verification of employment status.
Position: Oppose Status: Filed
Bill #: S.B. 60 Abortion Statistics and Reporting Requirements
General Description: This bill modifies Title 76, Chapter 7, and Offenses against the Family. This bill requires the Department of Health to prepare an annual report for the Health and Human Services Interim Committee, including information on: The number of abortions performed in the state, at what stage of pregnancy the abortions took place, and makes technical changes.
Position: Neutral Status: Signed by Governor
Health and Family
Bill#: S.B. 39 Parental Responsibility for Sex Education Training
General Description: This bill requires the State Board of Education to offer training to parents regarding health education, including human sexuality, for their children. This bill requires the State Board of Education to develop and offer training to parents with information on health education and human sexuality, and requires the State Board of Education to develop a training curriculum, including materials parents may use to educate their children; and report on the program to the Education Interim Committee.
Position: Support Status: Filed
Bill#: H.B. 214 Adoption Modifications
General Description: This bill amends provisions of the Utah Adoption Act relating to who may adopt a child. This bill amends a legislative finding relating to who may adopt a child, permits a person who is an unmarried cohabitant to adopt a child if: the child has only one legal parent, the child's parent joins in the adoption petition, the person has developed a parental relationship with the child, and establishing a legal parental relationship with the person is in the child's best interest. This bill provides that a person's parental rights are not terminated if, at the time the child is adopted: the legal parent is cohabiting with the person who is adopting the child, in a relationship that is not a legally valid marriage under the laws of this state, and the person who is adopting the child is permitted to adopt the child under the provisions of this bill, and makes technical changes.
Position: Support Status: Filed
Bill#: H.B. 298 Parent Seminar on Youth Protection
General Description: This bill modifies Title 53A, Chapter 15, Standards and Programs, by requiring the State Board of Education and school districts to implement a parent seminar on various issues. This bill requires school districts to offer an annual seminar to parents with information on substance abuse, bullying, mental health, and Internet safety; requires the State Board of Education to: develop a curriculum and provide it to requesting school districts; and report on the program to the Education Interim Committee; and requires a school district to notify charter schools located within the school district's boundaries of the parent seminar.
Position: Support Status: Signed by Governor
Bill: H.B. 154 Suicide Prevention Programs
General Description: This bill requires the State Board of Educaiton to designate a suicide prevention coordinator to oversee school district and charter school youth suicide prevention programs and establishes model youth suicide prevention programs for school districst and charter schools.
Position: Support Status: Signed by Governor
Bill: H.B. 147 Utah Marriage Commission
General Description: This bill creates the Utah Marriage Commission within the Department of Health and esptablished the duteis of the commission; Promote pubilc policy, coalitions and coolaborative efforts that support traditional families and marriages.
Position: Neutral* This bill does not negatively impact LGBT poeple. Status: Awaiting Action from Governor