Seizing The Future For The LGBT Community – Response to City Weekly

Posted By on August 7, 2012

Yesterday, City Weekly reporter Brandon Burt penned an open letter to me, asking why protests against Chick-fil-A in Utah fizzled out, and how the LGBT community of Utah can move forward. Sheesh… talk about pressure.

As Brandon mentions in his letter, the past year has been an exciting one for the LGBT community. For the first time ever, a sitting United States President fully endorsed equal treatment of LGBT citizens – followed soon after by the Democratic Party officially adding marriage equality to their platform. The discriminatory Prop 8 was shot down by the 9th circuit court. The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was struck down in court multiple times (I’ve honestly lost track of how many times now). And even here in Utah, Harrisville and Springdale became the 14th and 15th cities or municipalities in Utah to adopt Non-Discrimination policies.

But perhaps most noteworthy of all, a study performed by Brigham Young University revealed that a full 71% of Utah voters support either civil unions or marriage for same sex couples. That’s no small accomplishment for Utah’s LGBT community, considering that a short 8 years ago that number was only 46%. We are no longer the minority, the tide has shifted and we have now become the majority.

Immediately following the aftermath of Proposition 8′s passage in November of 2008, the long-dormant LGBT activist community of Utah awoke with a ferocity. Protest after protest rose up all over the state, with queer people and their allies striking back against the injustices we have suffered for so many years. A new and younger generation of activists, myself included, found themselves waking up to the world for the first time, with feelings of both hope and outrage brought on by the inspiration of a new President coupled with the horror of being told so bluntly we were not people.

And yet, that was then. The Utah LGBT community hasn’t seen a major protest since October of 2010, when nearly 5,000 gathered to surround Temple Square, protesting not Boyd K Packer’s right to speak his mind, but the message he delivered. Where has the massive outcry been since then? We seem to have fallen dormant yet again. Or have we?

The battle for true equality is not won in the streets with megaphones and signs, that is where it begins. The battle for the hearts and minds of our fellow citizens is won when the same-sex couple invite their neighbors over to share a meal. When the employee brings his or her partner to the company picnic (they still have those, right?). When the young student comes out to their friends. It is those little acts of courage and bravery that have truly gotten us to where we are today, and have more to do with why 71% of Utah supports us than any protest does.

But those acts of courage and bravery aren’t going to win us equal rights either. Even though we in Utah now enjoy such tremendous support, we still have yet to penetrate the thick, dull-headed bubble of the Utah Legislature – even for something as simple as a Non-Discrimination law.

What will win the day is for us as a community and our allies to once again rise up and shine. This new lackadaisical slump we have found ourselves in must once again be cast off with renewed purpose. But it is not to rallies or protests we must now rise to, it is to the voting booth. Our apathy and fear of the political world must be shirked. The conservatives in the Utah Legislature only continue their tyranny of us as a people because we let them, because we have allowed them to continue in their false notions that Utah is not ready for equality.

It is time for us to rise and shine. It is time for us to seize our own destiny, and recognize that it is incumbent upon us to take what we deserve as citizens of the United States of America and show the world that we are exactly what we should be, equal to all others. Each and every LGBT person and our allies must know precisely who we are voting for, from President, to Congress, to Governor, to Legislator, to City Council. Talk to them, ask them questions, tell them what equality means to you and make sure every single person you know does the same until they realize our numbers are not something to be scoffed at. Equality will not come until we make sure there isn’t a candidate in Utah that hasn’t heard from us and know that opposition to equal treatment of citizens will no longer be tolerated. Personal beliefs are personal beliefs, but no citizen of this great nation is to be denied recognition under the law. It is time.

Rise and shine Utah.

About The Author

Eric Ethington has been specializing in political messaging, communications strategy, and public relations for more than a decade. Originally hailing from Salt Lake City, he now works in Boston for a social justice think tank. Eric’s writing, advocacy work, and research have been featured on MSNBC, CNN, Fox News, CNBC, the New York Times, The Telegraph, and The Public Eye magazine. He’s worked as a radio host, pundit, blogger, activist and electoral campaign strategist. Follow him on Twitter @EricEthington


One Response to “Seizing The Future For The LGBT Community – Response to City Weekly”

  1. Brandon Burt says:

    Nicely put, Eric: “It is those little acts of courage and bravery that have truly gotten us to where we are today.”

    Demonstrations may be flashy and exciting, with their noisy slogans and bullhorns and media coverage, but I think you’ve hit the nail on the head: Few hearts and minds have been changed by a cleverly worded placard or well executed bit of street theater. These things are valuable in their own way — they energize like-minded folk with a sense of courage and camaraderie, and give hope to those who feel isolated. And (as with the Prop. 8 fallout) a good demonstration can provide an emotional outlet for a community’s overwhelming sense of frustration and disillusionment.

    But real change comes on a personal level. I genuinely believe that, deep down, most people are good; they have an inborn sense of fairness and humanity. Unfortunately, many people are taught from birth to regard us in the LGBT community as “the other” — scary, threatening, unknowable, despicable villains. But, once they discover the truth that we are real, human people — we are friends, co-workers, classmates and neighbors — their basic sense of humanity and compassion is engaged, and they learn to judge us as individuals.

    Thanks for the response, Eric!

    Oh, and by the way, I honestly wasn’t trying to lay a lot of pressure on you as the one-and-only Great LGBT Hope. It’s just that yours was the first and most recognizable name I could think of to represent that heady atmosphere of protest in recent years. The 2010 protest was such a resounding success, I don’t think anybody could blame me for that. And, hey, if nothing else, you can take pride in the fact that you’ve become a metaphor!

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