ST. GEORGE — Equality Utah joined forces with locals Saturday night at the Dixie Center St. George for Southern Utah’s 3rd Annual fundraising event for the cause of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender community. Equality Celebration: Come Out for Equality brought together members of Southern Utah’s LGBT community and their supporters both to raise funds for the next year of political and social battles and to commemorate the successful efforts made this year such as making Utahns aware that currently there is no anti-discrimination statewide statute preventing LGBT discrimination in the workforce or housing.
Joining Equality Utah was an array of speakers, awards presentations, and auctions of original pieces from prominent local artists that are valued as high as $10,000.
Emcee of the night, Reed Cowan, (born in Roosevelt, Utah), is a documentary filmmaker and screenwriter, a philanthropist and multiple Emmy Award winner and multiple Emmy Award nominee. He is most popularly known for writing “8: The Mormon Proposition” which is an American documentary that examines the LDS Church and its support of California Proposition 8, stating that the church has been actively involved in the denial of LGBT human rights. The film was directed by Cowan and Steven Greenstreet. Reed is also responsible for drafting the first of its kind legislation in Utah designed to curb bullying. He was also part of the creation of Mary Kaye Huntsman’s “Power in You” youth mentoring program.
Raised in a Mormon household, Keynote Speaker Dustin Lance Black is a screenwriter, director, film and television producer, and LGBT rights activist. Lance Black has won two Writers Guild of America Awards for his work on the HBO television series “Big Love,” which depicted a polygamist family living in Utah, and an Academy Award for the 2008 film “Milk.” Lance Black also narrated “8: The Mormon Proposition.”
Rewind to 2009 when Lance Black took the stage to retrieve his Oscar and said these words:
“If Harvey (Milk) had not been taken from us 30 years ago I think he’d want me to say to all of the gay and lesbian kids out there tonight who have been told that they are less than by their churches, or by the government or by their families that you are beautiful, wonderful creatures of value and that no matter what anyone tells you, God does love you and that very soon I promise you, you will have equal rights federally across this great nation of ours.”
So it is this promise and purpose that pulls Lance Black away from several large projects in Los Angeles to St. George where he desires to instill hope in the LGBT community, and stir a cause to action, especially in more rural areas where coming out can be trickier and the consequences greater.
Lance Black took the stage and masterfully told the story of his childhood growing up Latter-day Saint, what leadership meant to him as an oppressive force, and his loving family who he struggled to come out to after moving to Los Angeles. And most importantly he said he urges LGBT kids to see more options beyond staying closeted or contemplating suicide. He recounts how he first came across a speech from Milk that showed him that there were more options, options he hopes others see and can embrace which helped him embody this new form of friendly and loving leadership. He ended with Milk’s speech found here:
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Executive Director Brandie Balken said that Equality Utah’s goals for this year are to continue to focus on the passage of laws for nondiscrimination at work and housing in Utah, for which Sen. and Chairman of the Utah Democratic Party Jim Dabakis and LDS Republican Sen. Stephen Urquhart have already laid the groundwork.
“Another key focus of our work,” Balken said, “is continuing to do our district-by-district anti-bullying, hazing, harassment policies which also apply to teachers, which is critical because teachers model what is acceptable for our students, and if they see teachers that are out safe and well and out then there is a sense that they can be safe and well and out.”
“I think we need to have a national conversation whereby teachers are empowered to have these conversations with young people in their schools,” Reed Cowan said. “If a child is not going to say to their parents ‘I’m gay’ they’re going to say it to their peer group in school. And that’s what I’ve learned traveling around schools with Huntsman for our anti-bullying work; so administrators need to feel empowered on how to address the needs of their students. We need to turn pain into purpose.”
Optimistically, Balken said, “Utah is in its own right leading the nation in work for LGBT rights amongst conservative states. There are 29 states that have the exact same legal realities for LGBT people as Utah does and Utah is really pushing that forward leading edge.”
“Nationally, all of our eyes are on the Supreme Court and the case that Lance brought (to fruition),” Balken said. “There is the opportunity for very profound implications for all 50 states, of course none of us knows how that’s going to play out … regardless of what happens at the Supreme Court you can count on organizations like Equality Utah and people like all sitting here today to do the work to make sure there are legal protections for LGBT people. There is an immense amount of work to be done.”
In the words of Milk, “every gay person must come out. As difficult as it is, you must tell your immediate family. You must tell your relatives. You must tell your friends if indeed they are your friends. You must tell the people you work with. You must tell the people in the stores you shop in. Once they realize that we are indeed their children, that we are indeed everywhere, every myth, every lie, every innuendo will be destroyed once and all. And once you do, you will feel so much better.”
“Come out for equality,” Balken said, ending her speech, “it is our cause; it belongs to all of us.”
In an effort to better support its mission of securing equal rights and protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Utahns and their families, Equality Utah upholds their vision of a fair and just Utah.
The Organization and the Vision
• Equality Utah drafts legislation and coordinates lobby efforts to ensure its passage.
• Equality Utah PAC focuses on endorsing and supporting candidates who are supportive of gay and transgender issues.
• Equality Utah Foundation focuses on issues education designed to empower and activate people in the political process.
One of the Equality Utah’s guiding principles is that all individuals have the right to protection from discrimination and bias-motivated harassment and violence.
Sharing a single mission and vision, these three organizations continue to work on behalf of Utah’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
How to get involved in the cause
Visit Equality Utah’s get involved webpage here
Email: [email protected]
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