by CLAYTON NORLEN
With a donation of $7,500 and a commitment to volunteer involvement in mayoral candidate Ralph Becker’s campaign, Equality Utah is endorsing who it believes can advance its mission.
Becker has proposed the adoption of a universal human rights initiative that is broken into three categories: Comprehensive Ordinances and Policies, Domestic Partner Policies and Compliance and Enforcement. These measures will encourage the progressive development of current legislation and further the protection of human rights in Salt Lake City.
“A fundamental part of growing a great American city is making sure every citizen is protected by the law and treated equally,” Becker wrote online in his announcement of proposed incentives. “As Salt Lake continues to develop and grow, I want to make sure that every person feels they are safe and secure in this community.”
In advocating these measures, Becker is supporting Equality Utah’s key issues, such as the development of anti-bullying, equal access policies for students at all levels of education and furthering the adult designee program to include domestic partners as beneficiaries.
Utah’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community’s biggest enemy is bias, said Mike Thompson, executive director for Equality Utah. The mission of Equality Utah is to secure equal rights and protections for LGBT Utahns and their families. Its political action committee is determined to encourage legislation and vocal support of politicians and measures that move it closer to its goal.
“We are the political activist group for the LGBT community, and if only 10 percent of our members volunteer it can make a significant impact on the mayoral race,” said Will Carlson, manager of public policy for Equality Utah. “$7,500 was the cap on what we could donate, and it’s significant because it illustrates Becker’s support for our mission.”
As a lobbying organization Thompson explained, the strength of Equality Utah is in its education of politicians and the citizen representation it embodies on the hill. Because Equality Utah wanted to invest its money in the individual whom it felt would be best for the communities it represents, it waited until the primary elections to endorse a candidate.
Thompson said that the filter through which all of Equality Utah’s decisions run is its mission statement. The issues that surround the LGBT community cannot be simplified into a yes or no questionnaire. Because of this, Thompson explained that it is important to maintain relationships with politicians so Equality Utah can speak openly with officials and encourage dialogue.
“Politicians are realizing the impact the LGBT community can have in elections,” Thompson said.
Buhler didn’t comment on Equality Utah’s decision to endorse Becker instead of him, only saying, “It was their decision.”
“My feeling is that everyone should be treated the same in providing any city service, be it picking up someone’s garbage or providing insurance,” Buhler said. “I can’t think of why we’d treat anyone differently. If elected, we’ll treat everyone the same.”
David Everitt, campaign manager for Becker, said Equality Utah’s donated funds will go into a general campaign account to cover advertising, rent and other costs in the mayoral race. Everitt didn’t specify what the money would be used for, saying only that once money is donated to the campaign it covers whatever costs it is needed for.
“There’s always more doors to knock on,” Everitt added.
Volunteers who participate on behalf of Equality Utah in the race will be put to work knocking on doors, placing signs and stuffing envelopes. Volunteers can also donate their time to data entry, making phone calls or doing what Everitt described as general office work.
“It’s all about building relationships with both sides of the party line. This allows us to strive towards a fair and just Utah,” Thompson said. “[Utah] is where change needs to take place. What are you going to do, make a blue state bluer? No — [Utah] is where the challenges are.”