Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons in the U.S. state of Utah may face some legal challenges not experienced by non-LGBT residents. Same-sex sexual activity is legal in Utah, but same-sex couples and families headed by same-sex couples are not eligible for all of the same protections available to opposite-sex married couples.

The state's gay pride parade is the second most attended yearly parade in the state. State Rep. Jackie Biskupski, state Rep. Christine Johnson, and former state Sen. Scott McCoy, are openly gay[1] and Utah is one of only a handful of states where the legal recognition of same-sex couples was voted on at the Utah Senate in March 2005 when it considered creating a reciprocal beneficiary. The measure failed by eight votes.

1992 Edit

Utah hate-crime laws Edit

The first Utah hate-crime laws were sponsored by Utah House of Representatives Minority leader Frank R. Pignanelli (D) and were adopted after Republican representatives amended the specific protections that the original bill included.[2] Attempts were made unsuccessfully from 1992 to 1999 for the adoption of an amendment of the laws.[3]

Salt Lake County non-discrimination ordinances Edit

Utah gay activist David Nelson wrote and lobbied successfully in 1992 for the adoption of two Salt Lake County non-discrimination ordinances—the first laws in Utah which prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation,[4] and lobbied successfully in 1995 for the retention of the prohibitions when the ordinances were amended.[5]

1993 Edit

Utah viatical settlements law Edit

The first Utah viatical settlements laws were sponsored by Utah Rep. Pete Suazo and were adopted to help terminally ill Utahns, including those with HIV/AIDS, by allowing them to sell their life insurance before they died to pay for end-of-life care and other needs.[6]

2005 Edit

Utah State University domestic partnerships Edit

Barry Franklin a professor of the College of Education and Human Services at Utah State University gathered enough petition signatures to raise the issue of giving domestic partnership benefits to same-sex couples on November 21, 2005. A vote was expected to occur on December 5, 2005.

The university planned to create a domestic partnership registry in early 2005, but their legal counsel, Craig Simper, said it might violate Utah Constitutional Amendment 3. Mr. Simper stated that under his interpretation of the amendment, "no other domestic union may be recognized as a marriage or given the same or substantially equal legal effect". He also added in March 2005 that "Utah State University does not want to be the test case and does not intend to be the test case."

Salt Lake City domestic partnershipsEdit

In September 2005, Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson signed an executive order creating domestic partnerships for city employees. Quickly thereafter an Arizona based Christian legal group called the Alliance Defense Fund sued the city, claiming that the policy violates Utah constitutional Amendment 3. The American Civil Liberties Union has joined the city in its defense saying the policy is needed on the basis of having "the right to be free from discrimination based on their relationships and the right to equal compensation for equal work."

State legislators Chris Buttars and LaVar Christensen are highly critical of Anderson's measures. Buttars said, "Rocky has attracted the entire gay community to come and live in Salt Lake County." And Christensen said he may propose a law in the state legislature to prevent the Mayor's policies. The Human Rights Campaign Foundation put Anderson on their top ten list of supporters of gay rights in 2005.

Salt Lake County domestic partnership ordinanceEdit

In July 2005, the Salt Lake County council voted along partisan lines with 5 against to 4 in favor of providing domestic partner benefits to employees in same-sex relationships. The council's five Republican members said they were defending Utah state constitutional Amendment 3, which passed with 54% of the vote in the county.

However, a poll published in the Salt Lake Tribune cast doubt on that. It found that 47 percent of Utahns and 57 percent of Salt Lake County residents would support such a system. Other findings included that Utah voters did not expect the marriage amendment to block the extension of medical benefits to gay workers. Of those polled, 77 percent thought Amendment 3 would "simply define marriage." Another 39 percent believed the constitutional change would "prevent civil unions." And 33 percent said they believed the amendment would prevent gay and lesbian couples from "having any basic benefits or rights, such as health insurance or hospital visitation."

Provo gay-straight alliance Edit

Students at Provo High School created a Gay–straight alliance club in August 2005. Provo city is regarded as one of Utah's most conservative areas. In response, some community members asked the Provo Board of Education to shut it down. However, the district concluded it would violate federal law to do so and instead created a new policy requiring parental signatures to join any school clubs.

Some parents had argued the club could not comply with state law banning students from "discussing or promoting sexual activities except within marriage". Provo district officials said that a federal law states that students' speech cannot be limited.

2008 Edit

Common Ground InitiativeEdit

In 2008 following the passage of California's Proposition 8, Equality Utah launched its Common Ground Initiative, proposing five LGBT rights bills to the Utah legislature, based on comments by leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that they had no objection to such rights. On December 23, 2008, Human Rights Campaign representatives delivered 27,000 letters asking the LDS Church to support those bills. The Church has declined to comment on the matter.[7][8]

It appears that all of the measures of the Common Ground Initiative failed, some in committee.[9]

2009 Edit

Salt Lake City non-discrimination ordinance Edit

In Salt Lake City, two bills which outlawed discrimination (except by religious organizations) in employment and housing based on sexual orientation or gender identity were approved.[10][11] The legislation was supported by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland argued that it could be a model for the rest of the state.[12]

See alsoEdit


  1. Stone, Andrea (2006-05-09). Gay candidates look to further rights at state level. USA Today. Retrieved on 2006-11-17.
  2. "Gays say new law still falls short", The Salt Lake Tribune, Salt Lake City: Kearns-Tribune Corp., 1992-12-05. 
  3. "Pignanelli hopes to replace never-used hate-crimes law", Deseret News, Salt Lake City: Deseret Management Corp., 1994-05-22. Retrieved on 2010-05-27. 
  4. "Fight over measure 'just beginning'", Deseret News (Salt Lake City), Salt Lake City: Deseret Management Corp., 1992-10-01. Retrieved on 2010-05-27. 
  5. "S.L. County hiring plan angers gays", The Salt Lake Tribune, Salt Lake City: Kearns-Tribune Corp., 1995-07-18. 
  6. "Leavitt faces decision on veto of viaticals", The Salt Lake Tribune, Salt Lake City: Kearns-Tribune Corp., 1994-03-14. 
  7. Winters, Rosemary. "27,000 letters urge LDS leader to back rights of gay Utahns", The Salt Lake Tribune, 2008-12-23. Retrieved on 2008-12-24. 
  8. Falk, Aaron. "Activists hand-deliver letters to LDS Church", Desert News, 2008-12-23. Retrieved on 2008-12-24. 
  10. Landmark moment
  11. Statement Given to Salt Lake City Council on Nondiscrimination Ordinances
  12. LDS apostle: SLC gay-rights measures could work for state

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Same-sex unions in the United States

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