The meeting Wednesday night between gay rights advocates and members of the Utah Legislature was officially called "Compassionate Conversations with the LBGT Community”— but anyone who was there knows a more accurate title would have been: “Dude! You’re on the Wrong Side of History."
Ostensibly, it was a chance to plead that a bill to ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation (SB100) be heard on the Hill.
Gay-rights protesters "Capitol 12" hug the UHP troopers who busted them.
In front of a sympathetic crowd of hundreds at the Capitol, a series of gays, lesbians, transgender Utahns and family members shared stories of their abiding love for Utah, despite struggles against job and housing discrimination. Openly gay Sen. Jim Dabakis called it a watershed event.
Poignant testimony came from Candice Green-Berrett, Megan Berrett and their six-month-old daughter Quinn. Candice, who served an LDS mission to Chile, is an immensely popular teacher at Granger High School. She recounted how her conservative Mormon family embraced her when she came out as a lesbian. "My family used their LDS teachings and all they did was shower me with love."
Candice, who had been evicted in college because she was gay, asked for a better future for Quinn’s generation. “I’ve heard that you want to protect children,” she told the lawmakers, “start with ours’.”
Sponsor of SB100 Republican Sen. Steve Urqhart appeared to know everyone’s name and their stories. He he joked with and comforted the witnesses. "What a beautiful crowd. What a wonderful occasion," he said, opening the conversation.
Unfortunately for SB100, the vast majority of opposition Legislators did not participate in the conversation. And President Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy, who has the power to bring the bill to the floor, merely thanked the witnesses, saying, "We're all going to have to have patience in this thing." Niederhauser sponsored a bill similar to the controversial Arizona law that would allow businesses to refuse service to gays. Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed the bill minutes before the Capitol meeting started.
Urquhart thanked some LGBT college students who testified with their parents that they feared they would have to leave Utah for a more progressive state. "Stay in Utah,” he said. “Give us a chance to catch up to you and your parents."