Equality Utah celebrates progress, visibility, hope

One of the silent auction pieces displayed at the 4th annual Equality Utah Celebration held at the Dixie Center, St. George, Utah, May 10, 2014 | Photo by Aspen Stoddard, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Saturday evening more than 450 lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Utahns, along with their family members and supporters, gathered at the Dixie Center for the fourth annual Equality Utah Celebration where the discussion of securing equal rights took center stage.

The annual Equality Utah celebration has opened the door and allowed society to have needed conversations about existing inequalities, conversations that have created an incredible ripple effect, event coordinator Linda Stay said. Stay got involved with this cause after two of her children came out.

“Southern Utah is one of the reddest states, 95 percent of the people that came to our booth at the Washington County Fair didn’t know about the inequalities that exist,” Stay said. “There is a lot of misinformation and fear. That’s why I’m here. My goal is to normalize gay.”

From left, nationally recognized bishop Rev. Gene V. Robinson, Linda Stay, Elise West, Melynda Thorpe, Sen. Jim Dabakis, Brandie Balken, Dawn McLain and Kristian Johnson stand at the 4th annual Equality Utah Celebration held at the Dixie Center, St. George, Utah, May 10, 2014 | Photo by Aspen Stoddard, St. George News

The idea is to become a state that is just and fair to all, Equality Utah Co-chair Elise West said, and one of the key steps in achieving equality is education.

“Many people are unaware that in Utah you can still get fired from your job or kicked out of your housing for your sexual orientation or gender identity,” West said. “There doesn’t have to be proof. It could just be based on a rumor.”

Storyteller Janice Brooks was invited to be the emcee for this year’s event. A few people came to her, she said, and told her that they thought that by doing so she could ruin her reputation.

“I have a deep affection for human rights. I feel the honor was being seen as an advocate for humanity and to help fuel that energy,” Brooks said. “The problem of inequalities is masked in Southern Utah. It’s not covert but it is overt. Not blatant, it’s soft, gentle, which can be the most damaging. Moral imperative based on dogmatic beliefs is a tragedy.”

Keynote speaker and nationally recognized bishop Rev. Gene V. Robinson said that many people think that putting Christianity in alignment with lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender presents an oxymoron; but, he said, it is much the opposite and some of the most spiritual people are part of the LGBT community.

“When we as gays or lesbians read the Bible we see our own story,” Robinson said. “The Bible contains the seeds of our liberation.”

Its legal battles will continue, but the LGBT community rejoices in its victories. Robinson noted Friday’s ruling in Arkansas, in which Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza struck down the state’s legislative amendment that effectively banned same-sex marriage. As in Utah, so Arkansas, the attorney has said he will appeal.

The idea of liberty and justice for all should be for all, Robinson said, pointing out that there is no asterisk after the word ‘all.’   

Emcee Janice Brooks speaks at the 4th annual Equality Utah Celebration held at the Dixie Center, St. George, Utah, May 10, 2014 | Photo by Aspen Stoddard, St. George News

“Equality is not a movement. This is another Friday,” Co-chair Dawn McLain said. “We don’t talk about a movement because it is our everyday life. At the end of the day, the fraction that you lose is nothing compared to the multitudes you gain when you stand up.”

While the progress for LGBT rights in Utah has been immense, from a policy angle there is still much road to be gained, said Executive Director Brandie Balken.

“It’s time that public attitudes are reflected in public policy,” Balken said. “Until I was in my 20s, I hadn’t realized the lack of protection for LGBTs, how vulnerable you were if you had a different sexual orientation or gender identity and how many of the community members needed protection.”

Former Democratic Party Chair, Sen. Jim Dabakis agreed. “Utah needs to be on the forefront,” he said. “A young man came up to me one time and told me that he was gay and that he didn’t tell anyone. He said ‘if I tell anyone that I’m gay they will think I’m a Democrat.’”

When Dabakis went to sign himself and his husband up for benefits, he said, he was the only senator who was denied spousal coverage.

“The days of quiet desperation are over,” he said.

Robinson had said in his speech that there will be hearts and minds to win over but that visibility is a kind of pressure of its own.

The LGBT community Saturday did not exhibit quiet desperation or invisibility. Rather those present displayed what Melynda Thorpe called “a strong attitude of hope.”

While there was a remarkable lack of comment from the speakers on the subject of Utah’s pending appeal over a December 2013 ruling that found the state’s marriage law unconstitutional, Thorpe said most were reflecting on the joyful unions that did take place even though the time was short in Utah.

Over 1,000 same-sex marriages were performed across Utah between Dec. 20, 2013, when the original ruling occurred and Jan. 6, when the U.S. Supreme Court granted a stay on the lower court’s ruling pending the state’s appeal.

“When they know us they’ll love us. That toothpaste ain’t going back in the tube,” Robinson said. “We are here and we are queer but the world is getting used to it.”

Click on photo to enlarge it, then use your left-right arrow keys to cycle through the gallery. 

Related posts


Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2014, all rights reserved.

Free News Delivery by Email

Would you like to have the day's news stories delivered right to your inbox every evening? Enter your email below to start!


  • Jay @Jeanette May 11, 2014 at 9:58 pm

    Hi, we attended last nites celebration and enjoyed the evening emensly. Just wondering if there is a web site featuring photos taken of the evening. T

  • Never See It Happen In Dixie May 12, 2014 at 8:27 am

    In Utah’s Dixie, I bet you’ll never see any non-white selected as captain of a high school sports team, particularly football. I bet you’ll never see a non-white female selected as prom queen. Don’t recall seeing them as cheerleaders or in dance teams. Dixie has a long, long way to go to recognize equality with all people. I think the school selection committees are biased toward race (caucasian) and religion (mormon) rather than one’s merit and ability.

    • Brian May 12, 2014 at 9:37 am

      Why don’t you go and talk to the various sports teams and get their perspective before spouting bigoted drivel that’s based on nothing but ~your~ own biases.

      • Never See It Happen In Dixie May 12, 2014 at 10:18 am

        Based on observations, not bias. How many non-white players have you seen here with a captain or co-captain role? Do you believe that only whites are the superior athletes here? How many non-whites on those dance teams?

        • Brian May 12, 2014 at 5:16 pm

          It’s called statistics. Have you walked the halls to see the percentage of non-white students? No one should be captain, or not be captain, because of their skin color (affirmative action is racist BS). I’d love even the initials of a single non-white student that has a legitimate gripe of wanting to be a captain and wasn’t chose because of their skin color. Remember, about a dozen other white players are also not captain, even though they wanted to be, too.

    • jon May 12, 2014 at 9:37 am

      There’s more to life than high school football, cheerleading and prom queens. These events are mostly insignificant when one looks at the knowledge and experience acquired after that silly time in a youngsters life. Life starts after high school.

      • Never See It Happen In Dixie May 12, 2014 at 10:14 am

        Children can see the obvious bias and discrimination in their youth; learn it from their parents and adults. If there’s more to life than football, cheerleading and prom queens, then why do these seem so important to the adult parents? How many times have you seen one or two little league team loaded with star players, while others seem to have beginners and inexperienced? Is it that important to parents to create superior/inferior teams, an unfair advantage to ensure a false sense of success for a small group? If there’s more to life, then why do parents act as if life revolves around their kids’ football, sports, cheerleading, prom and dance teams? Is it the parents whose lives revolve around those high school things? Still, the best lesson in life to teach is equality, fairness, not bias and discrimination, and those lessons should be taught long before high school, not after.

        • Jon May 12, 2014 at 12:01 pm

          There is not enough space to speculate why parents behave the way they do with their little future hall of famers. I agree it’s quite the spectacle to observe as they embarrass themselves in front of know-it-alls like us. They have essentially ruined their children for life by their behavior.

    • Get Real!! May 12, 2014 at 10:43 am

      Apparently you don’t follow the local high school activities, but are choosing to use them to try and make a point that doesn’t exist. I distinctly remember a young man by the name of Adam (Timo) Hine, now a key running back for BYU, was a captain on the SC Football team and was also a starting RB/QB for that team. Two years later, my daughter was a cheerleader and had a very beautiful girl named Courtney on the SC cheer squad. She was also in homecoming royalty. Both of which are African-American. Have you followed Desert Hills, maybe you should follow their current QB, Nick Warmsley? Great kid, great athlete! Have you followed Dixie High Basketball? They have a great player who is also a Captain. Have you taken a look at the makeup of many of the team and there’s a large contingency of Polynesian and Hispanic players, many of which are Captains and in leadership positions.

      Your comment is biased and baseless. Our local schools, administrators, coaches, teachers and especially the kids have done an incredible job to include all that want to be included. The big reason you don’t see that many “non-white” kids in those situations is because we don’t have that many “non-white” kids in our area! The “Caucasian” / “Mormon” kids in our area have nothing but be accepting of these individuals and are great friends to this day.

      Why don’t you give specifics to support your bigoted comments, otherwise, let the community continue to advance in race relations and take your negativity elsewhere!!

      BTW- nice try working the word “Mormon” in your comment.

    • Scot May 12, 2014 at 10:52 am

      I have watched Hurricane High play football for years. I have seen many black and poly athletes walk to the center of the field as captains. Grow up!

  • Maggie May 12, 2014 at 5:22 pm

    Never see it happen in Dixie,
    I am guessing that the reason that you will never see it happen in Dixie is because YOU are one of the people who needs to open your eyes and heart. It is funny how the one who yells racist and bigot the loudest appears to miss what is really happening around you. It appears that it is easier to blame Dixie, Mormons and whomever you want to blame to cover up what shortcomings you appear to exhibit!

  • Steve May 12, 2014 at 6:41 pm

    He said his goal is to normalize gay. The problem with that goal is that being gay is not normal.

    • Applejack May 13, 2014 at 1:50 pm

      The problem with your belief is that the term “normal” is dependent on where one lives. For example, it is completely normal to be a Mormon here but not so in places like China or Iraq. On the other hand it is completely normal to be a communist in China and a Muslim in Iraq but neither of those are seen as normal in Southern Utah. It is also completely normal to be a Democrat in Nevada ( I grew up there so I know that to be fact) but not so in Southern Utah. As you can plainly see Steve, normal has variable definitions.

      • What's the mormons problem May 13, 2014 at 3:03 pm

        Why do mormons act like it’s unacceptable for anyone to not be mormon here? They are the ones living on a tiny island or bubble world acting like everyone is mormon. Do they really use their bishop contacts to sway things in their favor over the nonmormons? Don’t lie. Denial runs deep in Dixie.

      • Steve May 13, 2014 at 5:33 pm

        Applejack, please look up the word normal in the dictionary and tell me where homosexuality could possibly fall into that definition. I don’t have a problem if you are gay but quit trying to change laws just to fit your “abnormal” lifestyle.

  • Samuinta Feathertrial May 12, 2014 at 6:50 pm

    Never see it happen in Dixie that’s the same thing we said when they taught us about gangs, drug and alcohol abuse, porno, divorce, homosexuality, theft, murder, rape, convicts, welfare abuse, over spending, big government control, liberals, tree huggers, or any other negative influence to society, but of course as you are wrong so were we, welcome to Dixie thanks for bringing your problems to the area

    • What's the mormons problem May 13, 2014 at 3:07 pm

      Your problems were already here. You just denied them, pretended they didn’t happen, blamed others. Utah has the nation’s highest porn use (before “outsiders” and “gentiles” arrived), has one of the nation’s rate of rape (again, before outsiders and gentiles arrived), nation’s highest prescription drug abuse (again, before outsiders and gentiles arrived). Get your facts straight.

  • JAR May 12, 2014 at 9:17 pm

    Interesting article on the LGBT conference Aspen.
    The majority of comments have me puzzled however. How did the black American history of slavery come into the subject material? Because they were looked down upon in the pass as only human tools? And the Mormons? Now they are the bad hateful people? I don’t understand. Are we going to be reading in the further on how pedophiles are looked down upon and are deserving of equality? Or the Muslims people perhaps?
    Now if/ when a Marxist style society or a Hitler super race card only is pushed, I’ll be the first to throw bombing comments.

  • Desert wander May 12, 2014 at 10:44 pm

    Didn’t see anything mentioned in the article about whether or not if any of the key note speakers talked about, 300 black girls sold in to slavery by some thugs in foreign land. Maybe they spoke about the lands that remove same type of people who want to get married together or maybe the lands that remove female children off the face of the earth or maybe they taught of the hate of the second biggest religion in the world willing to take your daughters and kill your sons especially if the are happy happy happy and gay. Did they teach, don’t hate ranchers that want to get government Out of their personal life’s and don’t call them terrorists, did they teach don’t worry about saving a tree but save the women of the world, did they teach the men and women there don’t try to be equals in all that we do. But do try to out do each other in raising children. Did they teach that more food, clothes, shelter and clean water is provided to people of color whether they are gay or straight, man or women is provided by one of the smallest church’s in the world(largest in Utah) did they teach that in that same religion, just mentioned,has the largest female organization. And that the men are that to be equals and to show more respect, honors, love.equality than any organization in the world, yes even LBGT. Did they teach that if any one wants to visit this religion with respect and pure intent to find out about the true meaning of life, they are welcomed. We have enough groups, clubs and supporters in the world for none life threating causes. What we need are groups that support the true cause of life, how to raise upstanding children with two parents one that can stay home the kids the other to provid, supporters to teach people to be self sufficient quit wasting money, stop personal greed and live with in our means, teach children their divine worth. Then teach the truth about self indulgent politicians, evil governments, and stop the sale of slaves. Whether sold for work slaves or sex slaves and stop supporting government that support it. In summary we all need to stop trying to change the things of God for our own purpose. But use Gods purpose to change the world for God. We will all join in with one motto all men and women are created equall which is God creates man and grants him his freedom to choose doing right or wrong. That’s it choosing right from wrong, good luck. You all need to stop with the creative or in other words fictitious rightings And become accountable and become the carrier of truth and right, not hate and alienation as so happens often. Hypocrites have no place with God no do haters.

    • Applejack May 13, 2014 at 11:53 am

      What the Mormon “church” says and what the Mormon “church” does are two completely different things. They teach that all people should be treated equally, yes, but is there a woman Bishop? Can a woman hold the priesthood? Speaking if Lgbt issues, how many Mormons have been ejected from the church because they are gay even though they didn’t act on it? Why did the church send a letter to all its members in California urging them to vote for proposition 8 and against equal marriage even though marriage laws grant ZERO benefits of a religious nature? Keep in mind that everyone is entitled to an opinion and respect the opinions of everyone even if I disagree with them but I believe that the “do as I say, not as I do” stance the church takes on some issues needs to be pointed out because it is a deceitful practice and not one any “church” or church member of any religion should want anything to do with. Thank you. 🙂

      • Brian May 14, 2014 at 9:18 am

        How many male presidents has NOW had? Just because there haven’t been (and won’t ever be) female Bishops doesn’t mean the LDS Church discriminates against women. Men and women are different. We should celebrate those differences, not try to homogenize society so everyone is the same (homogenize is a word with meaning and has no reference to making everyone gay). And the Church is very accepting to those with same-sex attraction who choose not to act on it. The executive secretary in the Oakland 1st Ward is openly gay, but non-practicing (ie. lives the Law of Chastity). It’s OK for a group to have standards and expect its members to live by those standards.

        • whites only club May 14, 2014 at 10:51 am

          How many black apostles has the church had or anyone who wasn’t caucasian?

        • Applejack May 14, 2014 at 12:12 pm

          Brian please read my response to DESERT WANDER below. Thank you 🙂

  • NEVER SEE IT HAPPEN IN DIXIE May 13, 2014 at 3:13 pm

    Yup, listen to them claim out they accept blacks, but how many of them believe the words: “You see some classes of the human family that are black, uncouth, uncomely, disagreeable and low in their habits, wild, and seemingly deprived of nearly all the blessings of the intelligence that is generally bestowed upon mankind . . . Cain slew his brother. Cain might have been killed, and that would have put a termination to that line of human beings. This was not to be, and the Lord put a mark upon him, which is the flat nose and black skin.” (Journal of Discourses, vol. 7, p. 290). http://carm.org/brigham-young-quotes

    • Brian May 14, 2014 at 9:23 am

      Many today have science (man’s knowledge) as their religion. How about we trot out some quotes from the scientists of the 1800’s and you can explain those. Religion in general and the LDS Church specifically have been far more accurate and unchanging over the centuries than science, easily by an order of magnitude.

      • Not Anti-Religion, but... May 15, 2014 at 6:21 pm

        (Audible gasp, followed by eye-roll.)

        “Religion in general… [has] been more accurate and unchanging over the centuries than science, easily by an order of magnitude.”

        Let me give you a few examples of where you might want to reconsider:
        The Spainsh Inquisition (no one exects it, but it was still wrong.)
        The persecution of Galeleo and other scientists in the dark ages
        The exclusion of blacks in the priesthood
        Plural marriage
        The Mountain Meadows Massacre
        The burning of the men (such as Tisdale) who translated the Bible into common languages.
        Sharia Law and female genital mutilation

        I’m sorry, but religion can’t claim high ground by virtue of it’s age or stature in the community. True science doesn’t carry an agenda. If you claim otherwise, you have a failure to understand what science is. If you seek the truth, you will find that the truth will set you free. Science is the manner for seeking out truth.

        Please reconsider your thoughts on this subject, as yours are clearly wrong.

        • Brian May 16, 2014 at 7:59 am

          You’re naming religious atrocities, while completely ignoring atrocities committed in the name of science (Hitler’s “research”, the US government withholding medicine from 50,000 blacks to research the effects of syphilis, etc, etc). But I’m not talking about atrocities , I’m talking about things like Leviticus 15:5, which says to wash your hands after being around someone with a disease. Religion knew how to solve a problem at least 2,400 years before Ignaz Semmelweis made the “discovery” in 1847. All he had to do was read the Old Testament. The Word of Wisdom taught not to smoke in 1833. We now know it causes cancer. First there was global cooling, now global warming. Science has gone back and forth and changed and “evolved” on every topic out there. Religion has been quite consistent. Don’t confuse the acts of power hungry fools (we have plenty of those today in government, science, and yes, religion) with religious doctrine. I’m talking doctrine (and yes, science has plenty of doctrine).

  • Desert wander May 13, 2014 at 6:33 pm

    I am not a mormon first off I was referring to my religion,if you can’t tell by my name, is from Abramnal thru the linage of moos sonic. But again no one answered my questions. But your all right in what you think is right. But if I was answering Apples question my guess would be.
    1-there’s no women Bishops they already have enough stress raising children.
    2-women can’t hold the priesthood, men can’t have children
    3-none you can’t get ejected for your thoughts
    4-marrige is a religios nature a covenant between man a women and God.
    5-I would guess your talking about yourself sense all you say is deceitful.

    Looks like there reading in Dixie, hur Rae hur Rae

    Judge not least ye be judged, He who without sin cast the first stone, women where are your accusers.
    We not supposed to judge or is the sinner supposed to stop sinning or both.

    • whites only club May 14, 2014 at 10:55 am

      Not all women have the aspiration of getting married and birthing babies and keeping house. Bit of a bigoted comment saying they can be bishops because of their stress of raising kids. If marriage is a religious thing, then why are those people getting their divorces in a civil court rather than their church? Did their god make a mistake bonding them in church?

    • Applejack May 14, 2014 at 12:08 pm

      First off, I am an ex Mormon. I grew up in a small town out of state where 90% of the people were Mormon. I left the Mormon church 5 years ago because I finally saw the hypocrisy and discriminatory practices the church roots itself in. To answer your kong tirade if questions, yes the church does a lot of good but have you noticed that to really benefit from that good , you have to be a member of the church? A couple of years ago, I was looking for a job on the crappy economy and went to LDS employment services. The first question they asked was “Are you a member”? When it old them that I was not, they told me that they could not help me. Now let’s move on to your bullet points:
      1.) what if a woman who has kids still wants to be a bishop, can she do it? No.

      2.) women can’t have children without men but a man can hold the priesthood without being married or vein a relationship with a woman.

      3.) I know if at least 3 people who were excommunicated from the church for having gay thoughts. They told their bishop about their thoughts prior to acting on them and the bishops had them excommunicated. The church said that by simply telling their bishops about their thoughts they were, in a sense I guess, acting on them.

      4.) if a marriage is a “covenant between man a women and God” as you say then why is it that a municipal magistrate who has no background or knowledge of religion is allowed to perform marriages? Why is divorce a legal, common and accepted practice in the United States and Utah?

      5.) if you really think what I say is deceitful then that’s fine. I’m sure if you actually researched it for yourself using sources other then what your bishop or church elder told you, you would see for yourself that what I’ve said is true. My guess is you won’t though.

      This is directed toward Brian’s comment;

      Brian, if the church is unchanging over the centuries, as you say then why did God suddenly allow blacks to hold the priesthood in 1978?

      • Real Question May 14, 2014 at 7:18 pm

        Good questions. I think the NCAA and IRS has some involvement with the sudden change in thought toward blacks in 1978. Read the history of Equal Rights and NCAA with mormonism and you’ll see it still took over 10 years for this revelation.

  • Lance May 14, 2014 at 8:12 pm

    I find the name whites only club offensive and believe you should change it to Red Storm. As for applejack off with the disguise So you came out of the closet and sided up with your other ex’ed friends you do have right to make choices, you
    and redstorm should hook up you have same opinion. Brian said religion they was more accurate and unchanging compared to science. That’s why you don’t understand things you change all the words around applejack off with your phony knowledge about people thinking bad thoughts and get kicked out. Ya and God does change. Made all the people then flooded them off the earth, burnt up sodom me and my friends love that. Send Moses to the promised land then didn’t let him in. Red storm wiki will teach you civil marrige (no religion attached) started in 1700’s funny God was involved for all those years and bigoted man thinks he doesn’t need him any more. Let’s hangout

  • Johnc4 June 19, 2014 at 10:34 am

    Hello! This is my first comment here so I just wanted to give a quick shout out and tell you I really enjoy eekkecgddabf

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.