Good cop, good cop

By: Mike Haglund

With all the bad publicity and negative media, it’s hard to believe that anyone would want to put up with all of that. I talked with two individuals to discuss just that. Sergeant Bryan Peterson of the West Valley City Police, and Mario Widdowson, an intern for Unified Police currently under going the interview process to become an officer. For both of them, the desire to become a policemen started out as a child’s dream, and confirmed later in life when they had a positive interaction with a policeman.

For Sergeant Peterson, that experience came when he was in 5th grade he was a victim to an attempted mugging and had a knife held to his throat. “The detective assigned to my case” he said, “was very caring and worked very hard on my case. I was never able to ID the suspect, but the professionalism by the detective impacted me and my desire to be a police officer.”

“I want to be a policeman first and foremost” Widdowson explained, “because it was a police officer who had the most positive impact on my life when I was 18 years old and getting into trouble.” He also hopes to be accepted into the program so that he can have a positive influence on the community that he was raised in and have the opportunity to change a life like the officer who changed mine.

Two individuals with very different backgrounds, both with the desire to help their community. So why do the police have such big targets on their backs, and are put in such a negative light? As Widdowson and I discussed this question, we both agreed that where you grow up, and the experiences you have with the police have the most impact on your personal perception of them. We discussed that perhaps socioeconomic status played a big factor in crime. The majority of people don’t commit crimes because they’re bored, they do so out of necessity. If someone grows up in the projects of Baltimore and has negative interaction with the police from the time they’re very young, there’s a pretty good chance that they won’t grow up to respect the police.

We’re all human and humans make mistakes. When we make a mistake in school, we get a few points docked off our grade. At work when we make a mistake, your boss will bring you into their office and take corrective measures. Just like anywhere, there are good apples, and there are bad apples. But, when you are a public servant working out in public, everybody has their eyes on you, watching everything you do. When you do something wrong, people will pull out their cameras and start recording you, and in the blink of an eye that video will be posted on countless social media outlets. Soon enough it will be circling the news on a 24-hour cycle.

While talking with Sergeant Peterson, and Widdowson I asked them if their departments do anything from a public relations perspective to help counter all the negative media. Sergeant Peterson said that for a long time his department didn’t do anything PR wise, and thought that might have hurt them. They now have someone in charge of their social media, they have even posted pictures to Facebook of people they are trying to identify to get the public involved as well. Every summer, Unified Police holds an annual event called “Night Out Against Crime.” The goal of the event is to increase public awareness of crime prevention, build bridges between law enforcement and the community, and send the message to criminals that neighborhoods are organized and fighting back against crime. Widdowson also told me that they host a citizen’s academy where you take a class once a week for a few months and learn a variety of things that relate to police work. He says “people really do learn a lot from this experience and I would welcome anyone to go to it. You start to think more like a police officer and can better put yourself in their shoes.”

I asked Sergeant Peterson I asked him if there was anything the public can do to help change the effects of the negative media. He replied by saying, “I wish the public would ask the media for more heartwarming stories, or even call in to the media when they see good things happening. There are a lot of cops in the Salt Lake Valley doing a lot of good work that goes unnoticed.”

Tax incentives in Utah for hiring people with disabilities may go unnoticed

Story and photos by DYLAN LIERD

Federal and state tax credits aim to help Utah businesses hire people with disabilities. However, many companies may be unaware of the incentives that also strive to reduce the number of unemployed Utahns with disabilities.

Work Ability Utah, located at 1595 W. 500 South in Salt Lake City, advocates for unemployed Utahns with disabilities.

Work Ability Utah, located at 1595 W. 500 South in Salt Lake City, advocates for unemployed Utahns with disabilities.

According to Work Ability Utah, an organization that links employers with the workforce of people with disabilities, tax credits such as the Work Opportunity Tax Credit and the Utah Targeted Job Tax Credit are available for all businesses who are willing to hire Utahns with disabilities. But Carol Rudell, project director for Work Ability Utah, said not enough businesses are taking advantage of these credits.

“I see businesses that are perfectly willing to hire people with disabilities, but there are others that don’t know about the incentives,” Rudell said. “I see a lot of misses out there and a lot of stereotypes that are not true, and when people have more information they are more than happy to hire people with disabilities.”

The Work Opportunity Tax Credit is a federal tax credit that is designed to encourage cooperation with the Americans with Disabilities Act. According to Work Ability Utah’s website, businesses can earn an annual tax credit of $2,400 per hired person with a disability. Businesses can also earn a $9,000 yearly tax credit when hiring a disabled veteran. To receive these incentives, businesses must complete the Internal Revenue Service Form 8850 and the Employment and Training Administration Form 9061.

Businesses can also receive state tax credit by applying for the Targeted Job Tax Credit. According to the Utah State Tax Commission’s website, the purpose of its creation is to entice companies to hire people with disabilities in order to foster an integrated workforce.

The allotted credit minimizes the amount of income tax the business has to pay, and the amount of money the company receives is based on the salary paid to employed individuals. The maximum credit given is $3,000 per employee per year. This is a credit that can be received for the first two years that the person with a disability is employed. Companies are also not limited by the amount of individuals they can claim under the Targeted Job Tax Credit.

The Division of Services for People with Disabilities ensures the rights of Utahns with disabilities. DSPD is located at 195 N. 1950 West
 in Salt Lake City.

The Division of Services for People with Disabilities ensures the rights of Utahns with disabilities. DSPD is located at 195 N. 1950 West
 in Salt Lake City.

In order to apply for these services, the person with the disability must be eligible for services from the Division of Services for People with Disabilities. Businesses must then complete a TC-40HD form and have it approved by an authorized representative from DSPD.

Tricia Jones-Parkin is the program administrator for DSPD. She is the authorized person who accepts these tax credit forms. Jones-Parkin is tasked with training job coaches and approving businesses that apply for the Targeted Job Tax Credit. Job coaches are responsible for teaching employers how to professionally treat people with disabilities, and how employers can receive tax credits by hiring Utahns with disabilities. However, she said more businesses should be taking advantage of The Targeted Job Tax Credit.

“I haven’t received a single form turned into me this year,” said Jones-Parkin in a phone interview. “When I do training for job coaches, I tell them to tell businesses about the Targeted Job Tax Credit, but there is still not many businesses that do.”

Jones-Parkin also said that nationally, people with disabilities are the most under employed demographic. In Utah, the state is not doing much better than the national average.

According to the Department of Labor’s website, the unemployment rate for people with disabilities is 13.1 percent. This is more than double the unemployment rate for people without disabilities, which is 6.8 percent. That is why Jones-Parkins said that beyond the tax credits that Utah businesses receive, it is important to hire Utahns with disabilities in order to reduce this number.

In Utah, the Governor’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities works to advocate the importance of hiring people with disabilities to employers.

Leslee Hintze, executive director for the Governor’s Committee, said its members speak to employers about the tax benefits for hiring people with disabilities in order to entice businesses to hire these individuals.

“Once we advocate tax incentives to employers who have a tendency to say, ‘I don’t know if I can take this on,’ they are more likely to hire and continue to hire people with disabilities,” Hintze said in a phone interview. “Businesses really find out that they are great employees, they make the workplace better and they really do a lot for the business they are working for.”

According to the Committee’s website, businesses will also not see their Worker’s Compensation Insurance or Medicaid Insurance rates rise when they hire people with disabilities. Regardless of the incentives, Hintze said it also benefits the U.S. economy to hire people with disabilities so they can contribute financially to society.

“People with disabilities can give back tenfold by becoming taxpayers, which means they will become tax producers and not tax users,” Hintze said. “A country that does not take care of its least fortunate citizens, to me is pretty deplorable. It is a moral imperative, which is why businesses should be looking for opportunities like these because everyone will benefit.”

The potential effects of marriage for people with disabilities

Story and graphic by ANGIE BRADSHAW

Costs of cerebral palsy

For most people, getting married is the happiest day of their life. But for Utahns with disabilities, it means something much more complex.

It means they could lose all their state-funded benefits or they could be substantially decreased. Most people in online articles refer to this as the “marriage penalty.” This leaves individuals to choose between marriage and continuing to receive benefits. Furthermore, many people in online articles also believe this is an “anti-family” law and that something should be done about it.

The Utah state government assists single people with disabilities to help cover costs and provide additional accommodations where needed. This could be through Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security Disability Insurance or Social Security Income.

“The theory is that a couple can live on less income together than they would as individuals,” wrote B.J. Stasio, an advocate on gaining awareness for this topic. Furthermore, Stasio wrote, “The marriage penalty is misdirected and wrong because it prevents may people with disabilities from getting married or even staying married. People with disabilities deserve to be able to get married to the one they love.”

But what happens when that’s not the case or both individuals have disabilities?

Carly Fahey, a senior at the University of Utah, has cerebral palsy, a developmental disability.

She was born healthy, but her lungs were slightly underdeveloped so she stayed in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit in Florida for the first few weeks of her life. Fahey said it was there that the nurse administered a little too much oxygen, resulting in a neurological block to a portion of her brain. This caused a lapse in communication between her brain and her motor movements, specifically her legs and feet.

She has to use a walker to assist her in getting around. She said it also affects many parts of her body. For instance, she can’t control her body temperature and her eye coordination can become constrained and shifty. This can cause anxiety and severe migraines.

On a lighter note, Fahey said in an email interview, “I see the cerebral palsy as one of the brighter and more fun things about myself. There’s never a dull moment and I keep a really humorous outlook on things. I do everything that any college student would be planning on doing, except because of my disability … I always have a plan!”

Fahey says that many people with disabilities wait a very long time before getting married or decide not to do it all because of the negative impact it could have on their lives.

She has a friend with a similar disability who told Fahey how much she feels like she will have to give up — just for her right to get married. It can be quite the dilemma because the personal insurance companies are reluctant to insure individuals when they know that the state provides those insurance benefits already, Fahey said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the average lifetime costs for someone with cerebral palsy are estimated at $921,000. To break this down, it’s approximately $742,326 for indirect costs, $93,942 for direct medical costs and $84,732 for direct non-medical costs. This does not include emergency room visits and out-of-pocket expenditures. The dilemma can be overwhelming in deciding what’s the best option for all interested parties.

Of all the difficult things Fahey has encountered, the marriage issues will be one of the biggest challenges for her to navigate, she said.

“I’m confident that marriage will be wonderful,” Fahey said, “but figuring out the legal details will be an obstacle for sure. Something needs to be done.”

Utah organizations for people with disabilities see need for financial improvement

Story and photos by DYLAN LIERD

Under the mandates of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Utah State Legislature authorized more than $215 million to assist people with disabilities in Utah. However, organizations like the Division of Services for People with Disabilities and TURN Community Services Inc. still cannot provide assistance for all.   

According to the DSPD’s website, it is the main source of assistance for Utahns with disabilities. The DSPD serves more than 4,000 individuals, and helps fund some of the more than 50 for profit and nonprofit organizations that provide assistance for people with disabilities.

According to a source in DSPD’s financial department who asked not to be identified, more than 1,900 citizens are still on DSPD’s waiting list. He said that for those who currently receive services, the $215 million is not enough to finance the needs of all Utahns with disabilities.  

“We have half as many people on the waiting list that we are able to serve,” said the source in a phone interview. “The limit of financial assistance was not created from the sequester or the federal government. The legislature appropriated what they could, but there is not enough tax dollars to fill all of the need.”

Consequently, DSPD must determine whether a person is eligible for assistance by evaluating the severity of an applicant’s disability. According to DSPD’s website, individuals who have an IQ of 70 or lower lack daily living skills, which impairs their ability to grapple with the demands of daily life. For that reason, they will receive assistance, or will be prioritized on the waiting list.

The same is true for those who have physical disabilities or brain injuries. Funding for physical disabilities is based on functional loss of limbs, and if the loss is for a continuous period. For brain injuries, the severity of the physical trauma or non-traumatic injury is used to justify the individual’s need to receive services. Preferences are not given to any disability, but priorities are given to applicants who have the most needs.

People who receive financial support are more often long-term recipients. Applicants on the waiting list can only receive financial assistance when there is an increased amount of legislative allotment, or if a recipient dies or moves out of the state.

Eliza Detherage gathers information concerning people with disabilities and TURN.

Eliza Detherage gathers information concerning people with disabilities and TURN.

Eliza Detherage, director of operations for TURN Community Services, said too many people are being turned away from receiving funding due to a lack of revenue.  

“Around 3 percent of the population have a disability in the United States,” Detherage said. “If the population of Utah is around 2 million, then 60,000 people have a disability in Utah, but only a few meet the requirements.”

TURN Community Services employs more than 475 full- and part-time workers, and provides supervised living and 24-hour group homes for people with disabilities. According to TURN’s website, the nonprofit provides summer camps for kids and helps people with disabilities find job opportunities from a variety of employers. A contract with DSPD largely funds TURN Community Services, and for 2013, its budget is more than $14 million. The budget provides financing for supported employment, day programs, respite care, host homes and other services.

According to a document posted on TURN’s website about the contractual agreement with DSPD, it must be an approved Medicaid provider to allow DSPD to bill Medicaid for TURN’s services. Detherage said Medicaid is an essential service for people with disabilities and for TURN. Included with Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income and Social Security disability programs also help fund the costs of TURN’s programs. Detherage said less than 1 percent of TURN’s clients are on SSI or the disability programs. That means few receive additional funding.

“On a broad scale, when you look at people with disabilities, everything we receive is essential. Should there be more? Absolutely,” Detherage said. “I get about 10 calls a week from people that are absolutely desperate, but I know those people are not going to be eligible for services, and if they were eligible, they would just be sitting on the waiting list.”

Areas where TURN helps Utahns with disabilities.

Areas where TURN helps Utahns with disabilities.

Individuals on SSI receive $710 a month, an amount set by Utah law. Detherage said this is the only amount that many people with disabilities have. Therefore, because many people with disabilities cannot work, she said she believes the state legislature must appropriate more funding in order to shrink DSPD’s waiting list and allocate more to SSI beneficiaries.

Mike Bullson is a lawyer at Utah Legal Services. “The monthly benefit is limited, but the only way to receive greater amounts of funding is to allocate more money before being unable to work,” Bullson said in a phone interview. “This would help bring a lot of people out of poverty, but [it] is hard for disabled individuals to do.”

The source at DSPD said the amount of tax revenue the state receives does not allow the state legislature to allocate greater amounts of funding to Utahns with disabilities. Until legislators approve additional funding, organizations like DSPD and TURN Community Services must continue to work with their current funding. And that means many on DSPD’s waiting list will continue to remain there.

Is the LGBT equality movement the civil rights movement of the 21st century?

Story and slideshow by RENEE ESTRADA

Explore the Utah Pride Center and the Office for Equity and Diversity.

Throughout America’s history there have been movements toward equality. Americans who felt alienated or limited by the government protested, petitioned and fought for their rights.

The African-American civil rights movement followed after and spanned three decades, the 50s, 60s and 70s.

Currently, the LGBT equality movement is under way. The basis of the equality movement is to allow gay, lesbian and transgender couples the right to marry and all the rights that come with it, including, but not limited to health insurance benefits, tax benefits and estate filings.

According to David Frum of the Daily Beast, proponents of marriage equality have called it the “civil rights movement of our time.”

Not everybody is happy about this, including Frum and Jack Hunter, another conservative opinion columnist.

In Hunter’s article, “Why Gay Marriage isn’t the 60’s Civil Right’s Fight,” he argues, “There have been instances during the gay-rights movement that arguably could be compared to the black civil rights struggle, like the Stonewall riots of the 1960s or Matthew Shepard murder in 1998. … Still, with the possible exception of the mistreatment of Native Americans, there has been nothing quite like the systematic exploitation and institutional degradation experienced by earlier black Americans.”

Edward Buendía, an associate professor in the ethnic studies department at the University of Utah, disagrees with this notion.

“One of the arguments, against this movement as a civil rights movement, is that you don’t have lynching,” Buendía said in a phone interview. “Yes, there are not gay people being lynched, but we do have individuals that have lost their lives. Some people believe you have to be on the same level of scope to legitimize it and from my point of view, one life is too many to lose.”

In Frum’s article, “Let’s not call marriage equality the civil rights movement of our time,” he argues, “And while homosexuality has always had a large stigma attached to it, the number of gay people denied a job because of their sexuality just utterly pales in comparison to the number of black people denied jobs because of their skin color.”

Frum’s statement brings up another point. You can see when someone is African American. Meanwhile, you cannot see that someone is a homosexual.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People has endorsed same-sex marriage. According to a statement from the organization, “The NAACP Constitution affirmatively states our objective to ensure the ‘political, education, social and economic equality’ of all people. Therefore, the NAACP has opposed and will continue to oppose any national, state, local policy or legislative initiative that seeks to codify discrimination or hatred into the law or to remove the Constitutional rights of LGBT citizens.”

Regarding the endorsement, NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous said at a press conference, “Civil marriage is a civil right and a matter of civil law. The NAACP’s support for marriage equality is deeply rooted in the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution and equal protection of all people.”

In 2004, Utah residents voted to amend the state constitution to include a ban on same-sex marriage. In 2013, three couples challenged it. One of the couples is married in Iowa, but the marriage is not recognized in Utah.

Considering the Advocate, a national gay and lesbian news magazine, named Salt Lake City the gayest city in America in 2012, the statewide same-sex marriage ban is interesting. Granted some of the criteria were more humorous than serious, but the title still revealed Salt Lake City has a large, active, gay community.

“They [same-sex marriage bans] don’t make sense. They are restrictive and anti-people, because anytime the government says, you as a people, even though you didn’t do anything wrong, we are going to deem your existence illegal. That’s discrimination, and that’s wrong,” said Max Green, Equality Utah’s advocacy coordinator.

Green also offers another point. He believes the equality movement is taking an approach that is not seen very often. Supporters and advocates are tackling the most challenging aspect, and then moving on to more basic issues.

“This is the first time we’ve seen a sort of top down approach to an equality movement,” Green said. “In all other movements we’re seen bottom up. With the Civil rights movement, it was let’s start with something like desegregating the buses and desegregating schools, and then desegregating the military … so they went from the base up to the top. With the marriage equality movement it’s really starting at the top and going down, which is an interesting way to do things.”

Civil unions are offered as an alternative to same-sex marriage.

Thomas Allen Harris, who directed and produced a short documentary titled, “Marriage Equality,” disagrees with this alternative.

During an interview with NPR, Harris said that civil unions create a second-class label for gays and lesbian couples, making them less than heterosexual couples.

Some same-sex marriage advocates, including the three couples who are challenging Utah’s same-sex marriage ban, believe these bans are illegal, because of the decision affirmed by Loving v. Virginia.

The case Loving v. Virginia dealt with the legality of interracial marriage. According to a story in Slate, Mildred Loving and Richard Loving were sentenced to one year in prison for violating Virginia’s anti-miscegenation statute, the Racial Integrity Act of 1924. Eventually the Supreme Court ruled that the act violated the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. It was clear in the decision of the court that the Justices found this to issue to be a civil rights issue.

In 2007, Mildred Loving issued a statement for her support of same-sex marriage.

“I believe all Americans, no matter their race, no matter their sex, no matter their sexual orientation, should have that same freedom to marry … said Loving. I am still not a political person, but I am proud that Richard’s and my name is on a court case that can help reinforce the love, the commitment, the fairness and the family that so many people, black or white, young or old, gay or straight, seek in life.”

Some say Loving v. Virginia has paved the way for Hollingsworth v. Perry, given their similarities.

Hollingsworth v. Perry is a case that was heard by the US Supreme Court on March 25, 2013. Plaintiffs argued Proposition 8, a voter-approved initiative to ban same-sex marriage in California, violated the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

The decision of Hollingsworth v. Perry will not be out until June 2013. It seems until then Americans will have to see if the court deems same-sex marriage to be a civil rights issue.

Buendía sees the legal aspect is where the two movements intersect and share the most similarities. There were been many legal battles over segregation, and there are ongoing legal battles over LGBT rights, including housing and workplace rights.

While the movements bear some resemblances, it is clear there are distinct differences.

“We have to be careful of the significant difference for some people around race and color versus gender and sexual orientation,” Green said. “For some people those qualities don’t mix. We have to respect that and be aware not to rob someone of their identity.”

Pride Week at the University of Utah, a ‘top-25’ LGBT-friendly school

Story and photos by DAYLAN JONES

Pannel style discussion at the Hinkley Institute, Oct 4, 2012

Panel discussion at the Hinkley Institute of Politics, Oct. 4, 2012.

The University of Utah was named one of the top 25 most LGBT-friendly colleges and universities in the U.S. by Campus Pride in August 2012. The ranking gave the U something else to celebrate during the annual Pride Week celebration, held Oct. 1-5, 2012.

The rankings are based on data from the Campus Pride Index, which rates colleges and universities on things such as LGBT-friendly policies.

The U received high scores in all categories but LGBT Housing and Residence Life, where it scored a 3.5 of 5 stars.

“We are currently working towards that with the housing department and other necessary departments to have that by the fall [of 2013],” said Kai Medina-Martínez, director of the LGBT Resource Center at the U.

“It’s a good thing,” Medina-Martínez said about the publicity. “When the list came out the major news outlets contacted us, the U’s webpage acknowledged us, and in addition to the school, it’s a really good thing for the state.”

The Pride Week panel at the Hinckley Institute of Politics, Oct. 4, 2012.

The Pride Week panel at the Hinckley Institute of Politics, Oct. 4, 2012.

Pride Week has a different focus or theme every year to educate students and the public about issues in the LGBT community. This year’s theme was “Pride Has No Borders.”

The panel, “Pride Has No Borders: Immigration,” held Oct. 4 at the Hinkley Institute of Politics, focused on the challenges lesbians and gays of color face as they apply for immigration, get jobs and try to make a difference.

“As a woman of color and an immigrant myself I can connect with this,” said Valeria Moncada, a student who attended the panel. “It hurts my heart to see the hardships and unfairness we as people of this country place on immigrants. Immigrants as individuals are treated unfairly but because you are LGBT, you have less rights than a traditional immigrant.”

Pride Week also featured fun events. The Drag Show was a hit and gave new insight to one student. Madeline Smith commented on the “feisty” performers and “huge variety of looks and performances.”

The show, also Oct. 4, was held at Sugar Space in Salt Lake City. “My favorite performance was Klaus von Austerlitz,” Smith said. “He lip-synced to ‘Call Me Maybe,’ but mixed the song so it would change from the original song to a really creepy version and he would dance accordingly. He walked out all stiff like a doll and had 666 written on his hand so every time it said ‘here’s my number…’ he pointed to his hand.”

Smith, who was attending her first drag show, said she was “in awe at how Klaus fought the stereotype that all drag queens have to have fake boobs [and] wear heels…. He creeped out the crowd but everyone loved him.”

Sterling Anderson, a gay student at the U said about Pride Week, “I feel like I can be myself, and accepted for who I am on this campus. I don’t feel I have to hide my status and know I will be respected in that aspect. I feel very fortunate.”

2013: LGBTQ equality in Utah? It has a fighting chance

Story and photo by SASCHA BLUME

With the 2013 Utah legislative sessions set to begin on Jan. 28, the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community is in a political quandary.

Max Green, advocacy coordinator for Equality Utah in Salt Lake City, said, “We’re not asking for special treatment, just the same protection that everyone is provided.”

Green said the national and state elections of 2012 have made an impact on the coming year’s legislative process.

“With so much turnover from the elections not every person is up to date and not every legislator is familiar with the legislative readings,” Green said.

This makes it particularly difficult to have a season-long dialogue about specific legislation, Green said.

In an attempt to bring equal rights and protection to the LGBTQ community, Equality Utah created the Common Ground Initiative in 2012. The nonprofit organization’s mission is: “To secure equal rights and protections for LGBTQ Utahns and their families.”

This proposed initiative was designed to positively impact four problem areas in Utah’s LGBTQ community:

(1) Fair housing and employment (SB 51). Currently, Utahns can be evicted from their house because of their sexual orientation.

(2) Expanding health care (HB 64). Currently, lesbian and gay individuals cannot visit a loved one in a hospital.

(3) Relationship Recognition (SB 126).

(4) Inheritance. LGBTQ individuals are unable to claim inheritance when their partner dies.

During the 2012 legislative sessions, Utah’s Sate Capitol Rotunda was the site of a rally organized by Human Dignity Utah. The purpose of the rally was to encourage Utah legislators to ratify the Common Ground Initiative.

The rally drew more than 100 people — some carried signs, others sang, but all were there to show solidarity in their quest for equality.

Five speakers addressed the audience and the dozens of lawmakers who watched from the third-floor balcony surrounded by armed Utah Highway Patrol officers.

Sister Dottie Dixon, a local art performer, told the audience, “By showing up here today we’re showing that we are fed up; we’re tired of being ignored, politely dismissed, relegated to second-class citizens.”

Kathy Godwin, president of the Salt Lake Chapter of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), told the crowd that the majority of Utah citizens and businesses want equal protection for the LGBTQ community. She also said that approximately 70 percent of Utahns encourage state legislators to give civil rights to the LGBTQ community.

Isaac Higham, a keynote speaker with Human Dignity Utah, said after the rally, “I’m sick of the nonchalance of how easily they just dismiss our community and don’t even give us a true fair hearing.”

Higham said that Utah legislators are misinformed regarding what the people of Utah want. He said it’s the job of all Utahns to remind lawmakers that they are in office to work for the people, not just their agenda.

The Common Ground Initiative failed. All four bills went unheard and were effectively tabled.