One Equal World

Utah’s First Gay Mayor Jackie Biskupski

Posted on: November 23, 2015

Image: Shutterstock

Image: Shutterstock

Tuesday, November 17, 2015 is a day to go down in Utah history. Salt Lake City, home to the Mormon Church, elected their first openly gay mayor, former lawmaker Jackie Biskupski. And better yet, it was a surprise to no one.

Biskupski says that Utah has come a very long way. When she was first elected to office in 1998, some of her lawmaker colleagues would not shake her hand. And now LGBT issues didn’t even define the race between her and her mayoral opponent, the incumbent Ralph Becker. The two are friends, and he’s vowed to work with her to ensure a smooth transition.

Becker, 63 and a Democrat, helped pass a 2009 city anti-discrimination ordinance and officiated dozens of the first gay marriages after Utah’s surprise ruling overturned their same-sex marriage ban.

The election does, however, come on the heels of a number of local strikes against the queer community. In the days before Biskupski’s victory, a SLC judge removed a foster child from a lesbian family to place her with a heterosexual couple, and the Mormon church issued new rules targeting gay members and their children; specifically that the children of gay Mormon couples could not be baptized until they reached adulthood and publicly disavowed same-sex relationships.

It might not need to be said that Biskupski is not a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She says that one of her first goals as mayor is to sit with church leaders and discuss their stance, especially in the light that earlier this same year, the church endorsed a statewide anti-discrimination law that included protections for gay and transgender people. While the church is not under her jurisdiction, obviously, they have always played a role in SLC politics.

No word yet on whether this is the peak of Biskupski’s political ambitions. But one could hope she casts her eye on the gubernatorial seat in a few years. She’s more than proven she’s not afraid of the work that progress requires.

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