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Another gay-friendly Mormon Legislator

by Jesse Fruhwirth
- Posted // 2009-12-23 -

What does Utah's Legislature have more of? Gays and lesbians, or vocal Mormon advocates for gay rights? It's a trick question because what would have been the correct answer last month will soon be wrong.

The Utah Legislature went from three to two queer-identified members when Sen. Scott McCoy, D-Salt Lake, stepped down to focus on his law career, but the Legislature will gain its third Mormon member who's a vocal advocate for gay rights.

Ben McAdams, the Democrats' nominee to replace McCoy, is vocally Mormon and vocally gay friendly. I called Equality Utah Executive Director Brandie Balken to ask her if there were any other elected leaders in Utah that, like McAdams, fit the following three criteria:

  1. Active Mormon
  2. Elected official
  3. Vocal advocate for gay rights

In addition to McAdams (pending confirmation by the Governor), Balken listed Salt Lake City councilmen Carlton Christensen and JT Martin.

Among legislators, Balken said Sen. Luz Robles (D-Rose Park, and other west-side Salt Lake City neighborhoods), and Rep. Neil Hansen (D-Ogden) fit the criteria.

Now, wait, I said to Balken, there's gotta be more gay-friendly Mormons out there, considering that Equality Utah gives literally dozens of endorsements to candidates all over the state. That's true, she said, but

"The term you're putting on them is 'vocal.' Vocal is different than those that are willing to vote with us," Balken said. "There are more people outside Salt Lake City (and Ogden) that are allies of ours but haven't made the move to be advocates. But I think that's the next step, to see more people step out as vocal advocates. I think we'll see that changing in the coming years."

If ever there was a time where gay-friendly Mormons had to choose between loving gays and lesbians, or loving their church, it seems that time has ended. Balken agreed.

"It's been a really wonderful thing for families to have the opportunity to love their children--or father, or aunts and uncles, or insert a word here--and their church."

I wrote most of this before reading Jerre Wroble's post that McAdams is white, male, Mormon and an attorney, all things that are anything but unique in the Senate. Maybe Democrats should have tried harder to find someone who represents Salt Lake City's racial, cultural and gender diversity, Wroble suggests. Frankly, I don't disagree with her entirely, but as you can see, Mormon advocates for gay rights in the Utah Legislature are about as unique as gays and lesbians themselves. And, who knows, those gay friendly Mormons might have better luck than the gays and lesbians themselves in convincing fellow Mormon legislators that gay rights are not ungodly. 

McAdams' Dec. 19 nominating speech is below:


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Posted // December 30,2009 at 18:12

I agree.

It's a lot easier for people to understand when they can hear the explanation of a complicated topic from someone more identifiable. Go Utah, getting up there in diversity points, at least a little.