ST. GEORGE — Hundreds of revelers in St. George took a trip back in time to 1969 Saturday evening – complete with Beatles music, flower power headbands, tie-dye and go-go boots – in celebration of the gains achieved by the LGBTQ community in the ensuing decades.
The eighth annual “Equality Celebration” took place at the Dixie State University Film Studio overlooking St. George with the theme “All You Need is Love.”
About 300 celebrators gathered for the event in an effort to raise awareness and money for Equality Utah’s efforts in Southern Utah and the state as a whole. The organization seeks to secure equal rights and protections for LGBTQ Utahns and their families.
In recognition of the era, attendees wore 1960s fashion and enjoyed dinner and a concert by Beatles tribute band Hard Day’s Night.
“The ’60s were a very tumultuous time. It was a time of war, a time of student protest – it was a time of a political divide,” said Stephen Lambert, event co-chair and Equality Utah’s Southern Utah coordinator.
“The ’60s also brought about an unprecedented social change,” he said. “There was a change in social consciousness.”
Focusing in on some of 1969’s landmark gay rights events, such as the Stonewall riots in New York City’s Greenwich Village, Equality Utah Executive Director Troy Williams said there have been big gains by the LGBTQ community since then.
“That was 49 years ago. Now look at everything we’ve achieved over these decades,” Williams said. “Those riots launched the modern LGBT political movement.”
“We in Utah are now the beneficiaries of it. We are one of the few red states that have actually achieved nondiscrimination legal protections,” he said. “We’re the only Republican-led state to pass pro-LGBT legislation through a Republican-controlled House. It’s incredible.”
Williams outlined some of the recent accomplishments made in part thanks to Equality Utah and its many partners.
“In 2017, we overturned what was called the ‘no promo homo law.’ This was a prohibition that public school teachers and students had where they couldn’t talk about gay issues in the classroom.”
The organization also worked with the Utah State Board of Education to implement anti-bullying measures aimed specifically at LGBT youth. Equality Utah also successfully lobbied in the 2018 Legislature to secure policies that protect LGBTQ youth with bills that fund mental health services, crisis hotlines and mobile outreach clinics.
“We’re just at the table working with so many folks – from the State Board of Education to the Department of Health to the LDS church. We’re all working together to try to help LGBT kids, and that is unprecedented.”
However, Williams said, there is still much work to be done.
“We are working really hard in 2018 to expand the circle of love and to gather more people as supporters of the movement,” Lambert said.
The event also served as an opportunity to recognize individuals and organizations who are working toward goals of greater inclusion and equality in Southern Utah.
Switchpoint Community Resource Center, a shelter facility in St. George that helps homeless and impoverished people move toward self-sufficiency, was honored for its commitment to support struggling LGBTQ individuals.
“Unfortunately, there are people who are not welcome in their home after they come out. That puts them in a very vulnerable situation, and Switchpoint is a safe haven,” LGBT advocate Linda Stay said. “They serve our community without bias and without judgement.”
“We are so honored and so pleased to be recognized by Equality Utah,” said David Dangerfield, chairman of the board of directors for Switchpoint. “We try very, very hard to make sure that is a safe and a welcoming environment for all folks in our community.”
Jayci Bash, co-chair of Allies on Campus, a support organization for LGBT students at Southern Utah University and high school-age youth, was recognized as one of the event’s honorees for her work in Iron County.
“It was a grass-roots effort 10 years ago put on by faculty and staff who saw a need that wasn’t being met by our administration,” Bash said of Allies on Campus. “So, they put this organization together and over those 10 years have trained hundreds and hundreds of people to really create a community.
“Most of our LGBT students feel very safe. They feel like it’s a home, and they have people in their corner. It’s really the first time in some people’s lives that they’ve ever felt they weren’t alone.”
Sue Lipsman was also presented with the “Excellence in Advocacy” award for her work in Southern Utah.
“We need to educate people and bring people to a point where they can understand all of us,” Lipsman said. “I’m so proud to support the organization and get other folks involved and make this a really loving community.”
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