Category: LGBTQ

Why it is important for trans people to remain visible

SALT LAKE CITY – LGBTQ rights have come a long way in the United States, but two cases being heard in the Supreme Court could have enormous consequences for the workplace protections of LGBTQ employees.

The historic decision rests on how the Supreme Court justices will ultimately interpret federal Title VII protections against discrimination based on sex when it comes to gay and transgender employees. One of the cases involves two gay men who say they were fired because of their orientation, while the plaintiff in the other case, a transgender woman, says she was fired over her gender status.

The final rulings will determine if it is indeed legal to fire someone because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, which could affect 88% of the 11 million people who identify as LGBTQ in the United States.

At the Utah Pride Center in Salt Lake City, the importance of education and visibility of trans people as a way to bring about more compassion and fight discrimination is a common topic.

“I believe our visibility is what helps to educate people to understand us and accept us,” said Sue Robbins, a trans woman who is the current chair of Transgender Education Advocates of Utah and the past chair of the Utah Pride Center. “I believe that our existence is very educational and I think there are youth out there that even some older individuals that see our existence and if they see us thriving then it gives them something to hold on to or to say that can be me.”

Ermiya, a social activist who has worked closely with the Utah Pride Center, the ACLU, and Equality Utah working on LGBTQ political issues explains how she continuously reminds people that trans people are not a monolith. “We are multiplicities and complexities. We are scientists and teachers and advocates and so much more, and we transcend this label “transgender” – really that’s what we are, we are transcenders, because we exist in all these place(s).”

Becca, a local news web producer added “I had a friend whose sister, her young daughter is trans and I guess just by existing I was able to open her eyes to a different way to approach her daughter. And when I think about the impact that would have had on my life as a child it seems irresponsible to just hide.”

Ermiya expressed the need for trans people to continue to fight for trans rights and civil liberties, in addition to being on Capitol Hill in efforts to put a face to pieces of legislation. She also expressed frustration that a lot of trans youth face when it comes to politics.

“In my experience working with trans youth I have noticed a lot of trans youth think it’s tiring and emotionally draining to always have to constantly politicize their identities.”

Isaac, a volunteer with the education department and the TransAction program at the Utah Pride Center, says that living authentically is the most important thing. “All of us are part of this human tapestry of rich experience and a rich possibility. You either respect, admire and nurture us as people or you don’t. That’s the line.”

“I have a saying that I always love to give and that is that education leads to knowledge, knowledge leads to understanding and greater understanding will bring social change. So it all starts back at the education and people understanding who we are and what our needs are, and we will get the social change that we need,” Sue concluded.

More than a music festival: LoveLoud 2019

WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah — Thousands of people gathered at the USANA Amphitheater Saturday night for the third annual LoveLoud festival.

The festival has grown every year — this year’s headliner was Kesha.

LoveLoud founder and Imagine Dragons lead singer Dan Reynolds said the festival is about more than music.

“We want people to have a good time,” Reynolds said. “But above all, we want to shift the culture, we want to destigmatize what it means to be LGBTQ, we want people to stop having this conversation, we want it to just be a part of life where people just exist and we go about our life.”

The festival was hosted by Kelan Allen, a YouTube personality and contributor to “Ellen.”

Speakers included Matt Easton, the BYU political science valedictorian who came out as gay during his graduation speech this year.

Kearns football players suspended for Pride flag burning, ‘all gays die’ Snapchat video

KEARNS, Utah — Two students have been indefinitely suspended from the Kearns High football team for a social media post showing a Pride flag being burned and threatening LGBTQ people.

A player posted a video on Snapchat last week where someone lights an LGBTQ Pride flag on fire and laughs. Someone in the video is heard saying “all gays die.”

Granite School District officials are determining the proper punishment, which could include community service or school suspension for the student who posted the video and another who reposted it.

“There’s no place for that in our program at all, and it won’t be tolerated,” said Matt Rickards, the team’s head coach. “It’s potentially a hate crime, so it sickens me.”

The video is considered cyberbullying and a safe school violation.

“We want to make sure every student who walks through our doors feels safe and secure in the environment that they’re in,” said district spokesman Ben Horsley. “Whether it was done intentionally with a threat in mind or for humor’s sake, it’s inappropriate. And we’re going to address it in a very serious fashion.”

Rickards does not take this issue lightly either.

“We have one rule in our program, and that is not to embarrass yourself, your family or your team,” Rickards continued. “That rule was broken. There’s got to be consequences for that.”

Rickards took over the program seven years ago. He says he’s worked with kids to improve their grades, stop bullying and learn to serve their communities.

“Our number one goal is to build men of character, integrity, be responsible, have empathy for others and serve the community for good. That’s our number one objective,” Rickards said.

The district said they have reached out to members of the LGBTQ community to help with future empathy exercises and educational opportunities.

 

 

‘It sickens me’: Kearns football coach reacts to players burning Pride flag

KEARNS, Utah — Some members of the Kearns High School football team could be in trouble for a video posted on social media recently.

A player posted a video on Snapchat last week where someone lights an LGBTQ Pride flag on fire and laughs. Someone in the video is heard saying “all gays die.”

Another player reposted the video before it came to the attention of administrators and athletics staff.

School officials met with the student and his parents Monday.

“There’s no place for that in our program at all, and it won’t be tolerated,” said Matt Rickards, the team’s head coach. “It’s potentially a hate crime, so it sickens me.”

Rickards took over the program seven years ago. He says he’s worked with kids to improve their grades, stop bullying and learn to serve their communities.

“Our number one goal is to build men of character, integrity, be responsible, have empathy for others and serve the community for good. That’s our number one objective,” Rickards said.

The Granite School District is investigating the incident and evaluating what discipline the students will face if deemed necessary.

“We take any comment, content or social media post that is intended to make any student feel unsafe, very seriously,” district spokesman Ben Horsley wrote. “This student’s actions are in no way reflective of the Kearns community and high school. This is an unfortunate reminder that we need parents’ help to monitor children’s use of social media to ensure they use it in a responsible fashion.”

Meanwhile, Rickards is pondering his own decision on what should be done from his position as head coach.

“We have one rule in our program, and that is not to embarrass yourself, your family or your team,” he said. “That rule was broken. There’s got to be consequences for that.”

Tennessee preacher-cop calls for execution of LGBTQ people

Authorities in Tennessee are reviewing all pending cases involving a Knox County Sheriff’s Office detective after he gave a sermon at his church that called for the government to execute members of the LGBTQ community.

“They are worthy of death,” Grayson Fritts said in a June 2 sermon at All Scripture Baptist Church, a small church in Knoxville that he leads.

The church posted the sermon online and then removed it, according to The Washington Post. The video was picked up by the Tennessee Holler, an independent liberal news outlet, and edited into a six-minute clip.

“God has instilled the power of civil government to send the police in 2019 out to the LGBT freaks and arrest them and have a trial for them, and if they are convicted, then they are to be put to death,” he said in the clip.

Fritts said it would be easy to find people to arrest at events such as gay pride parades.

“We have a bunch of them we’re going to get convicted because they have all their pride junk on, and they’re professing what they are, that they’re a filthy animal,” he said.

CNN has not been able to reach Fritts for comment. Speaking to journalists before giving a sermon last Wednesday, Fritts said his anti-LGBTQ beliefs have not interfered with his work as a law enforcement officer.

“It’s totally separate, because if I’m employed by the sheriff’s office, then if they came into the sheriff’s office, obviously they’re allowed there,” he said, according to WATE. “You understand what I’m saying? This. I am over this. I am the head of this church. I say who comes and goes. Those people are not permitted to join, those people are not permitted to attend.”

DA investigating Fritts’ cases

Charme Allen, the Knox County district attorney general, issued a statement calling Fritts’ comments “personally offensive and reprehensible. Allen said she would review all of Fritts’ pending cases and an assistant district attorney will review any complaints about closed cases involving Fritts.

“When any potential witness in a criminal proceeding expresses an opinion of hatred and/or bias towards a class of citizens, I am ethically bound to explore that witness’ credibility,” Allen said. “Accordingly, I am reviewing all pending cases involving Mr. Fritts to scrutinize them for any potential bias. Although my office has never received a complaint regarding Mr. Fritts prior to this incident, I have assigned an assistant district attorney to receive complaints regarding closed cases, and I will act on those complaints as justice dictates.”

It’s not clear what kinds of cases Fritts investigated. When contacted by CNN, the Sheriff’s Office would not comment. CNN affiliate WATE reported that Knox County Sheriff Tom Spangler said Fritts had taken a buyout recently and is on paid sick leave until the workforce reduction takes effect on July 19.

“I want to be very clear that it is my responsibility to ensure equal protection to ALL citizens of Knox County, Tennessee under the law, my oath and the United States Constitution without discrimination or hesitation. Rest assured that I have and will continue to do so,” Spangler said in a statement, according to WATE.

Spangler told the Knoxville News Sentinel on Friday that Fritts will not be fired over possible lawsuits based on First Amendment grounds.

“We looked at every avenue we could look at without violating anybody’s First Amendment rights (and) freedom of speech and the best thing for us was what we did,” he said. “And that’s what we’re sticking with.”

A small church

The church Fritts leads operates out of a storefront in Knoxville. WATE attended a service on June 12 and reported 16 people attended.

The All Scripture Baptist Church website says it is “an independent, fundamental, King James Bible only, soul-winning church. Don’t expect anything liberal, watered down, or contemporary here.”

The website is clear about the church’s stance on the gay community:

“We believe that sodomy (homosexuality) is a sin that is against nature. A person will only burn in their lust toward the same gender if they have been given over to a reprobate or rejected mind. God said homosexuality should be punished with the death penalty, as set forth in Leviticus 20:13. No homosexual will be allowed to attend or join All Scripture Baptist Church.”

In the sermon that night, Fritts said he’s not an outlier about LGBTQ rights.

“The world looks at it like, there’s Pastor Fritts, there’s that lone wolf,” he said. “There’s Pastor Fritts, that one guy. That one Baptist pastor that’s just a lunatic. That’s just crazy. Guess what? There’s a lot of people that believe exactly like I believe.”

Mayors criticize Fritts

Two Knoxville public officials criticized Fritts’ comments.

“I am outraged at the statements by Knox County Sheriff’s Detective Grayson Fritts,” Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero said in a statement posted on the city’s website. “Fritts’ statements raise concerns locally and nationally about protecting LGBTQ+ rights and equality. Fritts’ statements have cast a negative light on our community making it imperative to share my personal position and the position of the City of Knoxville.”

Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs also criticized Fritts, according to the Knoxville News Sentinel.

“Mr. Fritts is not my employee so I can only give my personal thoughts on the issue,” Jacobs said. “I find his comments to be extremely vile and reprehensible and I strongly condemn threats of or calls for violence.”

Pride Fest 2019: Presidential Candidates, Record Attendance, Family Fun

DES MOINES, Iowa  —  The LGBTQ community is celebrating some big historical milestones this year: 10 years of marriage equality in Iowa and 50 years since the Stonewall riots that paved the way for pride celebrations.

Joining in on the festivities this year are eight presidential candidates: Beto O’Rourke, Bernie Sanders, John K Delaney, Kirsten Gillibrand, Marianne Williamson, Andrew Yang, Jay Inslee, and Tim Ryan. Each candidate is participating in the ‘Meet the Candidate’ event at the People’s Plaza near the Capital beginning at 11 a.m.

That is also where Pete Buttigeig will be speaking for the ’10-years of Love’ Reception at noon.

Organizers said the presidential candidates will help bring national media attention to how inclusive Des Moines is.

“It just is showing and displaying the visibility of how great Des Moines is, we are always joked as a flyover state. But it is a good reminder to the nation, because we have almost every major news outlet coming this weekend which is going to be such a great opportunity to display how strong and supportive our community is but also how amazing our LGBTQ community is,” Capital City Pride Board Vice President Jen Carruthers said.

This weekend Capital City Pride organizers are expecting their largest turn out in their 41-years with 20,000 people expected to attend.

You are sure to see lots of rainbows but something new you might see are pops of pink. Capital City Pride is asking allies of the LGBTQ community to wear pink this weekend.

“This is really just a reminder that every LGBTQ person has an ally in their life who has helped them come out or supports them on a day to day basis or just is an ongoing person in their life. Allies are really important and so we just wanted to have a visual reminder that they are here, they support the LGBTQ community and we appreciate them,” Capital City Pride Board President Dan Janson said.

The Pride Festival is more than just street food and parades, there are events almost every hour.

“We have really tried to hone in on every aspect of our community so there is something for everyone to do. Whether it’s going to a family kid zone, or if you don’t like to drink there is a fun run and yoga, there is a pet parade if you don’t have kids, I mean we really are trying to get a little bit of something for everyone,” Carruthers said.

There are three main headliners performing this weekend as well as a number of other musicians and this year, every performer is a member of the LGBTQ community.

“Having that presence of LGBTQ headliners I think makes a big statement, we are really trying to, in this 10 years of marriage equality and 50 years of Stonewall, we have people out there within the community, we don’t have to go outside of it,” Carruthers said.

For a full list of the events for PrideFest 2019 go to capitalcitypride.org.

Pride flags stir up controversy in Heber

HEBER CITY, Utah — A new set of Pride flags flying from the lamp posts along Main Street in Heber City led to some debate at Tuesday night’s city council meeting.

“I have no problem with people’s sexual orientation.  I have a real problem with it being flashed in front of my face,” said Patricia Thompson, a Heber citizen.

“What about acceptance of my values as a Christian woman? Are you going to fly a flag in support of those of us who are straight?” another woman said to the council.

The flags were paid for through private funds; no public money was used.  They are hung on city-owned lamp posts and went through the usual approval process through public works.  Mayor Kelleen Potter said she was consulted and gave approval for the flags as a way to recognize a broader celebration of a civil rights issue.

“This is not a political issue. This is an issue about loving those around us. Period,” said Allison Phillips Belnap, the Heber citizen who raised the money for the flags.

The flags will stay up for their approved period of time.

New Exhibit Gives History of LGBTQ Movements in America and Iowa

DES MOINES, Iowa  —  June marks Pride Month in the U.S. and this weekend Des Moines is celebrating with different festivities and the Pride Parade.

The Polk County Heritage Gallery downtown turns 40-years-old this year, they are also celebrating a milestone in LGBTQ movements on the 50th anniversary year of the Stonewall Riots with an exhibit called ‘Evolution of the Revolution: 50 Years Since Stonewall.’

“Many people don’t realize that Stonewall was a riot at a gay bar in New York City in 1969 which really started the modern gay rights movement,” Des Moines Pride Center President and Exhibit Curator Rick Miller said.

Miller said it was a time when bars were one of the only establishments that welcomed the LGBTQ community. After police raids, the community came together to protest and establish activist organizations. After this, every year in June, organizations celebrated their unity with Pride Parades.

But the Stonewall Riots were just one aspect of the movements in history shown in this gallery.

“It will have everything from the murders at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, to clear back to 1890 when Magnus Herschfield in Berlin Germany created the first studies of sexuality in the human race,” Miller said.

The show integrates national history with history that happened right here in Iowa. And when it comes to change in this state, Miller said it began with the kids.

“We’ve had all kinds of work, working with gay students in schools, and how that’s worked. How they have been dealing with discrimination at their age and how that morphed into civil rights for adults then and ultimately marriage equality here,” Miller said.

Iowa was the third state in the United States to legalize same-sex marriage in 2009. Miller says this gallery will help people understand the timeline of what the community has been through and where it still needs to go.

“A lot of this has a lot of emotion around it, so people come, and they see this, and they see the combination, what happened, when it happened and it kind of puts it into a different perspective. Even for gay people that know all this and lived all this, it just kind of puts it into a succinct form,” Miller said.

The exhibit is open through June 21 at 111 Court Ave. The gallery is open Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. but it will also be open this Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

I-84 shooting victim greatly missed at Pride by husband, community

SALT LAKE CITY — As thousands celebrate the Utah Pride Festival, a key member of the community is missing from the festivities.

LGBTQ activist Dennis Gwyther was shot and killed while driving on Interstate 84 in northern Utah on May 22.

“He was typically building a float for one of the organizations,” said Matt Gwyther, Dennis’ husband. “He was always the loudest ones in the parade.”

The initial investigation indicates Dennis was killed in what appears to be a random attack. With the emotion of his loss still raw, Matt was escorted along the Pride parade route in a limousine.

“There’s good moments and bad moments,” Matt said. “I am very fortunate to have an incredible support system of friends and family around me who have taken care of me.”

But he recognizes that not every member of the LGBTQ community feels love and acceptance when they come out.

“When you say, ‘I love you, but,’ it damages the relationship and it takes years to recover,” Matt said. “He (Dennis) got the fact that there’s a lot of kids who are told, ‘I love you, but.’”

He says his husband devoted decades helping those who needed a shoulder or didn’t have a place to go.

“35 years he was active in the community,” Matt said. “Dennis was one of those guys who made it happen.”

Matt hopes the love he has received during this dark time and the love Dennis gave can be an example that helps others.

“I want parents who don’t understand their kids who might be a part of the queer community to say, ‘I love you, period.’ Not, ‘I love you, but,’” Matt said.

That is the legacy he is confident his husband is leaving behind.

“His loss will be felt in the community and in my heart for years to come,” Matt said.

Police arrest teens accused of stealing pride flags

SOUTH JORDAN, Utah — South Jordan Police believe they’ve found the teens behind several pride flag thefts across the city.

Three teenage boys face tough questioning Wednesday after police said they found them with several pride flags.

Cell phone video recorded by a Daybreak neighbor cracked the case, according to Lt. Matt Pennington with South Jordan Police.

Recorded in broad daylight, police were able to get a partial license plate and a good look at the suspect’s vehicle. A teen could be seen stuffing a pride flag inside a black sedan.

“We are thrilled to learn the wheels of justice have turned pretty quickly here,” said Jim Thompson, who had his pride flag stolen on the same block earlier in the week.

A patrol officer tracked the car to a South Jordan home. Inside, they found the three suspects and about a half-dozen pride flags. Police believe the teens are the same seen in Thompson’s surveillance video when his flag was stolen right out of his yard.

“We felt like we were being targeted, that this is not just kids being kids, it was something more than that. We really did,” Thompson said.

Investigators haven’t ruled out if the stolen flags were just a teenage prank or an LGBT hate crime. If so, the suspects could qualify for an enhanced penalty after a hate crime bill became law last month.

“When you target a specific group of people for a specific reason, that’s a problem. You think it is fun and games and it’s a flag but flags hold value,” Pennington said.

Detectives are making a case against the suspects that is expected to be reviewed by Salt Lake County District Attorney for any possible charges.