Salt Lake City Elects Openly Gay Mayor
In its recent election for mayor, Salt Lake City found itself in the uniquely challenging but promising position of needing to choose between two candidates who proudly identified with the LGBTQ community – openly gay candidate Jackie Biskupski and two-term incumbent Mayor Ralph Becker, a longstanding ally. This month, voters made history by electing Biskupski, a former seven-term legislator who bears the distinction of being Utah’s first openly gay elected official, to office. She now serves as the first ever openly gay mayor of Salt Lake City.
Becker’s political record illustrated his commitment to both social justice and the city overall while he held office. He was unafraid to champion several civil rights advancements from inception through completion. Becker guided Salt Lake City to be a leading city within the state of Utah and nationally when it comes to human rights – particularly in terms of passing non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ citizens. His success as Mayor inspired Jane Marquardt’s support, as well as official backing from organizations like Equality Utah (which chose to endorse both candidates, further highlighting the happy position LGBTQ community members and allies found themselves in when casting their votes). His announced commitment to ensuring a smooth transition as Mayor Biskupski takes office further speaks to their shared dedication to Salt Lake City and all of its residents.
A former Utah lawmaker, Jackie Biskupski is uniquely positioned to continue Salt Lake City’s legacy of progress when it comes to LGBTQ issues, even as it serves as the capital to an otherwise highly conservative state. This is critical, given recent events that clearly indicate that there remains a significant amount of hard work to be done. Just two days after her election, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints made public new, controversial declarations regarding gay members and their families. Only a few weeks before that, a Utah judge caused a media firestorm by threatening to remove a foster child from the care of a competent and loving lesbian couple to be placed with a heterosexual couple instead, citing the minor’s well-being as a reason for his ruling.
Moving forward, Mayor Biskupski has already stressed the importance of building bridges and establishing collaborative partnerships with many different community stakeholders, including organizations of faith.
As Salt Lake City grows in both size and diversity, Mayor-Elect Biskupski will need to engage in meaningful, productive conversations with the diverse voices of all her constituents, and help address the city’s needs with consensus-based solutions. This is a tall order. Her expertise as a public servant and personal perspective will help inspire meaningful change for the better. This election reaffirms that Salt Lake City’s voters stand proudly in solidarity with their LGBTQ brothers and sisters’ fight to be respected and judged by merit rather than arbitrary components of their personal lives. Mayor Biskupski now takes up the mantle to lead that honorable charge forwards towards progress.