Salt Lake City, Utah, has a larger Mormon population than any other city in the country. The Mormon church maintains its stance that homosexuality is a sin, but, surprisingly, Salt Lake City also has an LGBT population that’s among the highest in the country. And on Monday (Jan. 4), the city elected its first openly gay mayor.
Jackie Biskupsi, a Democrat who won the mayoral election with 52 percent of the vote, is engaged to Betty Iverson, a former Utah state Representative. During her inaugural address on Monday, with Iverson by her side, Biskupsi — who is also only second woman ever to be elected mayor in Salt Lake City — spoke about the way LGBT issues first compelled her to get into politics.
According to an AP report, “Biskupski cited a gay rights battle in Utah’s capital city two decades ago that spurred her to enter politics. After the city’s East High School formed the state’s first gay-straight alliance club in 1995, the Salt Lake City School District banned all noncurricular clubs to try to block it. The district reversed its decision several years later after lawsuits and protests.”
After recalling that incident, Biskupski said, “That sparked in me a responsibility to my own community.” She then went on to reflect on how far the LGBT-movement in Utah has come, remembering that when she became the state’s first openly gay lawmaker in the state House, many of her colleagues refused to shake her hand or even make eye contact.
The battle certainly isn’t over in Utah, though; in November, the Mormon church faced widespread backlash for initiating a new policy that prohibits children living with same-sex couples from being baptized or having baby-naming ceremonies in the church, and for declaring that people in same-sex marriages could be ex-communicated.
“Today is not just about making history,” Biskupski said right after winning the election. “It is about people. It is about effecting change.”