Milk screenwriter Dustin Lance
Black was among the speakers Saturday at a gay rights rally in Salt
Lake City, the Deseret News reported.
“I did not come to Salt Lake City to
protest. I came here to introduce myself and to share a message of
love and respect,” he told over 200 people who gathered at the
Capitol. The openly gay screenwriter was raised Mormon.
The rally, organized by Equality Utah,
the state's largest gay rights advocate, was the opening volley in
the campaign to approve a set of basic rights for LGBT people in
Utah. The “common ground” initiative was first unveiled last
year, but none of the 5 bills introduced managed to reach the
Leaders say they have “scaled back”
the effort from last year's ambitious push.
“We're going to focus on our
municipal efforts,” Brandie Balken, director of Equality Utah, told
the paper. “The way we're able to change policy is by getting
people on the ground to support those policies. In looking at what
happened with our very common sense bills last year, we saw we needed
to do more work on the ground.”
Late last year, Salt Lake City approved
the state's first measure that bans discrimination on the basis of
sexual orientation and gender identity in the areas of housing and
employment. The Mormon Church surprisingly supported the
legislation, which was approved unanimously.
Passage of the measure appears to have
softened up Utah's most vociferous anti-gay lawmaker. In November,
Utah Senator Chris Buttars – who once called gay people “the
meanest buggers I have ever seen” – said he would consider
sponsoring a similar statewide measure.
“Maybe we ought to have a statewide
bill that allows those things,” he told the Salt Lake Tribune.
“A person has a right to have a house or a job without worrying
about their sexual orientation.”
Adding to the fodder was a November
announcement by gay group Log Cabin Republicans saying they had
secured two Republican lawmakers to sponsor statewide gay rights
measures in the upcoming legislative session.
Buttars, however, has yet to turn into
a gay ally. In discussing the possibility of supporting gay rights
measures, he told Salt Lake City's Fox affiliate, Fox 13: “I meet
with the gays here and there and they were in my house two weeks ago.
I don't mind gays, but I don't want them stuffing it in my throat
all the time and especially in my kid's face.”