I rolled into Salt Lake City around noon today. My first stop was the Utah Pride Center. This place is amazing! They are doing such great work. I was a little nervous about being in Utah, home of the anti-gay Mormon church, but as soon as I got to the Pride Center, I let out a deep breath and felt right at home.
I was lucky enough to interview four employees of the Pride Center. Jennifer gave me an idea of what kind of work the Pride Center does. Jude told me about the queer youth in the state. (Queer youth make up nearly 45% of the homeless youth in the state.) Marina talked about the work that is being done on a legislative level. And Michael talked about the climate for LGBT folks living in Utah.
The state does not protect LGBT people under employment, housing, or hate-crimes legislation. Marina believes these protections must come from the federal government, because Utah’s legislature is too conservative to pass any such laws. I asked about the influence of the Mormon church in the Prop 8 campaign in California. Everyone agreed that, since the church became so involved in helping to pass that anti-gay amendment, the Utah LGBT community has come together to stand up for their rights in their own state. It has galvanized the community.
While in Salt Lake City, I had to see where the two boys were arrested for kissing. They were arrested in a part of the city called Temple Square. This is where Main Street travels through a piece of land that was purchased by the LDS church. The deal with the city was that the walkway would remain a public throughway. Walking through the area where the boys were arrested, it is clear that the pathway is a public walkway. Yet, when the boys showed affection for each other by giving a simple kiss, they were harassed by the LDS church security guards. The boys, rightfully so, protested this harassment. The security guards then detained, handcuffed, and arrested the boys.
The incident has created a call for “kiss-ins” nationwide. August 15th there will be “kiss-ins” all across the country. Fortunately, the Salt Lake City District Attorney threw out the case against the boys. It appears the lasting impact of the arrest is a spotlight on LGBT equality and dignity. This is certainly not what the LDS church could have hoped for.
Special Thanks to Michael and John for dinner and giving me an incredible place to stay the night.
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