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BYU announces Office of Belonging; LDS Elder attacks LGBTQ+ people

“To use such antagonistic and warlike language in reference to LGBTQ+ people is indefensible. All students should feel safe.”

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Pride Flag at BYU (Photo Courtesy of Affirmation LGBTQ Mormons Families & Friends)

PROVO, Ut. – Brigham Young University President Kevin J Worthen announced earlier this week in the annual university conference for faculty and staff, the formation of a new Office of Belonging at the university to be led by a vice-president level official. The office’s creation follows a report from BYU’s Committee on Race, Equity and Belonging that was finished in February.

The new office will focus on helping campus members achieve the community of belonging outlined in a newly created statement on belonging. The office will focus primarily on coordinating and enhancing belonging services and efforts on campus.

Worthen emphasized that the Office of Belonging will not only be core to BYU’s efforts to root out racism, but also to combat “prejudice of any kind, including that based on race, ethnicity, nationality, tribe, gender, age, disability, socioeconomic status, religious belief and sexual orientation.”

Notably absent from Worthen’s statement was any mention of Gender identity.

Also in attendance at the conference delivering remarks was Latter Day Saints Church, (LDS) Apostle Jeff Roy Holland, who attacked the premise of extending the idea of ‘belonging’ to the LGBTQ community at large.

The 80-year-old  member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which is the second-highest presiding body in the government of the LDS Church, had served as the ninth president of the university.

“We must have the will to stand alone, to be different, if necessary. Being a university second to none in its role primarily as an undergraduate teaching institution that is unequivocally true to the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. If at a future time, that mission means forgoing some professional affiliations and certifications, then so be it,” Holland said. University faculty and staff should take up their intellectual “muskets” to defend the Mormon Church, especially “the doctrine of the family and…marriage as the union of a man and a woman.”

Holland also launched into a denouncement of university alumni Matt Easton, his class year’s valedictorian who had come out as gay during his commencement address to his classmates. Easton in an interview with The Salt Lake Tribune noted that he was proud of what he did.

“I wasn’t trying to grandstand or ‘commandeer’ the event. I drew on my personal experiences because they shaped my time at BYU — authenticity is not the same as ‘agenda-pushing,’” Easton said.

Paul Southwick, the Director of the Portland, Oregon Religious Exemption Accountability Project, (REAP) told the Blade in an emailed statement, “To use such antagonistic and warlike language in reference to LGBTQ+ ideology is indefensible, particularly when so many LGBTQ+ students attend BYU. Quoting Mr. Holland’s own language, it is ‘more divisive than unifying, at a time we want to show love for all of God’s children.’ 

“Every student should be have the freedom to be honest and open about who they are, without being subjected to dangerous rhetoric that puts them in harm’s way. All students should feel safe in their campus environments,” Southwick added.

“Being LGBTQ+ is not a ‘challenge’ and Holland’s statement and overall speech demonstrates the “unkindness” and “crushing cruel[ty]” that he claims to condemn.  We stand united against this speech and the message of exclusion that it sends to our LGBTQ+ youth at an extremely vulnerable time in their lives. We invite Mr. Holland, BYU, the LDS church, and all other religiously affiliated universities to join us in embracing these young people. These are your children and they deserve our unconditional love and acceptance.”

Commentators on multiple social media platforms were quick to rail against Holland’s remarks. One person on Twitter pointing out the direct line being drawn between the church Elder’s homophobia and the recent murder of a married lesbian couple in Grant County, Utah.

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Utah

Two families sue Utah over anti-trans youth sports law

By singling out trans girls- the children and their families allege, HB 11 violates multiple provisions of the Utah Constitution

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Matheson Courthouse: Home of the Utah Supreme Court, Utah Court of Appeals, & the 3rd Judicial District (Photo by Ken Lund)

SALT LAKE CITY – Two Utah families filed a legal challenge in Utah state court Thursday against House Bill 11, which prohibits transgender girls from competing in school sports.

The law, which the Legislature enacted over Governor Spencer Cox’s veto, singles out transgender girls in order to exclude them from girls’ sports. It bars every transgender girl from competing on a girls’ team regardless of her medical care or individual circumstances.

The students included in the challenge are transgender girls who are current public-school students, love sports, and want to participate in sports with other girls. The families of these children are proceeding anonymously to protect their children. They include Jenny Roe, a 16-year-old junior in High School who wants to play volleyball her senior year and Jane Noe, a 13-year-old swimmer. If HB 11 is allowed to go into effect, these children will be barred from playing the sports they love.

“My last season playing volleyball was one of the best times of my life. I loved my teammates, felt part of something bigger than myself, and finally had a way to socialize with friends after being cooped up during the pandemic, Jenny Roe said. “This law devastated me. I just want to play on a team like any other kid.”

“It feels like an attack on our family,” Jenny’s mother, Debbie Roe added. “Parents want their kids to be happy and to be surrounded by people who love and nurture them. This law does the opposite—it tells my daughter that she doesn’t belong and that she is unworthy of having the same opportunities as other students at her school.”

“As parents, we want our children to be healthy and happy,” said Jean Noe, mother of 13-year-old Jane Noe. “My husband and I love Utah and our children have benefited from living here. This law changes all of that and we are having serious conversations, for the first time, about whether we can stay here. It is deeply unsettling that the state would want to strip our child of the love and support she has received from her teammates, coaches, and entire sports community.”

“This law bans transgender girls from competing with other girls in every sport, at every grade level, and regardless of each girl’s individual circumstances,” said Justice Christine Durham, former Chief Justice of the Utah Supreme Court and senior of counsel at Wilson Sonsini. “It cannot survive constitutional scrutiny and it endangers transgender children.”

By singling out transgender girls for disfavored treatment, the children and their families allege, HB 11 violates multiple provisions of the Utah Constitution.

HB 11 is one of hundreds of anti-LGBTQ bills pushed in state legislatures across the country in 2022. Health care organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Psychological Association have opposed such legislation, as has the National Coalition for Women and Girls in Education.

Prior to the passage of HB 11, the Utah High School Activities Association (UHSAA) had guidelines governing the participation of transgender students in school sports. UHSAA provided information during the legislative session that only four transgender students had even used their process and that they had not had any complaints from students, families, or school administrators.

Of the 75,000 students who play high school sports in Utah, only four are transgender and only one had played on a girls’ team.

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Utah

Suspect named in murder of lesbian newlyweds had committed suicide

The suspect named by the Sheriff’s Office was a co-worker of one of the victims at the McDonald’s in Moab, Adam Pinkusiewicz

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Kylen Carrol Schulte, 24, and Crystal Michelle Turner, 38, also known as Crystal Beck (Facebook)

MOAB, Ut. – The Grand County, Utah Sheriff’s Office released a statement that a suspect was identified in the double homicide last August of a newlywed lesbian couple Kylen Schulte, 24, and Crystal Beck Turner, 38. The suspect named by the Sheriff’s Office was a co-worker of one of the victims at the local McDonald’s fast food restaurant in Moab, Adam Pinkusiewicz, 45.

The women’s bodies were discovered August 18, 2021 at their campsite in the South Mesa area of the La Sal Loop Road in Grand County located less than 50 miles from the Colorado-Utah state line.

Grand County Sheriff Steven White said that he had asked for the assistance of agents from the Salt Lake City field office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation along with law enforcement agents from the Utah State Bureau of Investigation, as the investigation into the shooting deaths of the women.

Investigators with the Grand County Sheriff’s office say that Pinkusiewicz allegedly told an unidentified source that he “killed two women in Utah and provided specific details that were known only to investigators.” According to the Sheriff’s office he had been camping at the same time as the two women and then left Utah shortly after the bodies were found. He later committed suicide although details are not being released due to an active ongoing investigation.

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Utah

Former U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch dies at 88, spotty record on LGBTQ+ rights

The year he retired he expressed support for the LGBTQ+ community & drawing attention to the high suicide rates among LGBTQ+ youth

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Screenshot/FOX 13 News Salt Lake City, Utah

SALT LAKE CITY – Former Republican U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch, who spent over 40 years representing the state of Utah in the Senate, died at the age of 88. The Orrin G. Hatch Foundation announced that he passed away Saturday at 5:30 p.m. surrounded by his family. No specific cause of death was given.

Hatch’s Senate career spanned from 1977 to 2019, longer than any other Republican in the nation’s history. 

The Senator was best known for his efforts to get the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Children’s Health Insurance Program passed in the Senate and signed into law. He was also known for his committed political philosophy as a fiscal moderate on Capitol Hill within the Republican Party.

The Salt Lake City Tribune noted Sunday reporting on his career:

“In his early years in the Senate, Hatch was seen as a right-wing brawler, fighting for a balanced-budget amendment and laws undermining labor unions. He didn’t earn his deal-making reputation until he struck up a friendship with a liberal lion, late Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Ted Kennedy. Known as the “Odd Couple” in Washington, they teamed to pass the Children’s Health Insurance Program, the first research bill on AIDS and the Americans with Disability Act.”

During a speech on June 17, 1987, then President Ronald Reagan wryly noted in reference to Hatch and the Federal budget; “Let me just say that if every Member of the Senate were like Orrin Hatch, we’d be arguing over how to deal with a Federal surplus. And that’s why I like to think of Orrin as “Mr. Balanced Budget.”

His stance on hot button political/cultural issues was extremely conservative. Hatch was strongly opposed to abortion and was the author of the Hatch Amendment to the Constitution that failed to get Senate approval, which stated that there is no constitutional right to abortion and empowered the states to restrict abortion as they saw fit.

On immigration, the Senator embraced tougher enforcement immigration policy including expanding the number of Border Patrol officers at the Southern Border with Mexico. But he partnered with Illinois Democratic Senator Dick Durbin introducing the DREAM Act, which would provide a pathway to citizenship for the children of undocumented immigrants, who were children when their parents came to the United States.

Thus far the legislation has languished even after being reintroduced several times, but has not been approved by majorities in either house of Congress.

On LGBTQ+ rights Hatch initially took the Republican Party and conservative stance on the issues of equality. At the start of his political rise in Republican politics as a newly elected U.S. Senator in 1977, he told students from the University of Utah; “I wouldn’t want to see homosexuals teaching school anymore than I’d want to see members of the American Nazi Party teaching school.

Nine years later in 1996 he supported the Defense of Marriage Act.

Hatch also voted against the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act in 2009, which expanded federal hate crime laws to include crimes committed against people based on their gender identity and sexual orientation. During Senate debate over the legislation, he questioned whether it was necessary, suggesting that anti-gay violence was not “a major problem.”

As the country moved towards wider acceptance of same-sex marriage, in 2012, the Senator voted to confirm U.S. District Court Judge Robert Shelby to the Federal Bench in Utah, who then President Barack Obama had nominated.

Judge Shelby on December 20, 2013, struck down Amendment 3 of Utah’s State Constitution, which defined marriage as a union solely between a man and a woman, opening the way for same-sex marriage in the state.

Shelby ruled that Amendment 3 was in violation of the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment, which guarantees due process and equal protection. As a result Shelby’s ruling set off a series of other district court decisions that overturned bans in several other states.

His ruling was affirmed by the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals on June 25, 2014. On October 6, 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court declined the review the Tenth Circuit’s ruling, legalizing same-sex marriage in Utah.

The ruling by Shelby and the effect on the effort to legalize same-sex marriage was noted by Hatch on a Salt Lake City Utah radio show in 2014 saying that, even though he may not like it, legal gay marriage is inevitable:

“Lets face it. Anybody that does not believe that gay marriage is going to be the law of the land just hasn’t been observing what’s going on,” he said on KSL NewsRadio’s “Doug Wright Show.”
“The trend right now in the courts is to permit gay marriage and anybody who doesn’t admit that just isn’t living in the real world.”

Prior to his statements to KSL, in April of 2013, Hatch stated publicly that he viewed same-sex marriage as “undermining the very basis of marital law”, but declined to support a Federal Marriage Amendment and endorsed same-sex couples’ right to form a civil union, stating that the law should “give gay people the same rights as married people”

Between January 2012 and February 2014, plaintiffs in Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee filed federal district court cases that culminated in Obergefell v. Hodges.

After all district courts ruled for the plaintiffs, the rulings were appealed to the Sixth Circuit. In November 2014, following a series of appeals court rulings that year from the Fourth, Seventh, Ninth, and Tenth Circuits that state-level bans on same-sex marriage were unconstitutional, the Sixth Circuit ruled that it was bound by Baker v. Nelson and found such bans to be constitutional. This created a split between circuits and led to a Supreme Court review.

On June 26, 2015, Obergefell overturned Baker and required all states to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples and to recognize same-sex marriages validly performed in other jurisdictions.

Also in 2013 he was one of only 10 Republican senators who voted in favor of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, legislation that prohibits discrimination in hiring and employment on the basis of sexual orientation/gender orientation for those identifying as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. On November 7, 2013, the bill passed the Senate with bipartisan support by a vote of 64–32. President Obama supported the bill’s passage, but the House Rules Committee voted against it.

It appeared to political observers and others that as time moved on, the Senator was becoming more progressive in his viewpoints regarding LGBTQ+ people.

In July 2017, after President Donald Trump’s announcement that he ordered a ban on military service for transgender Americans the senator said; “I don’t think we should be discriminating against anyone, transgender people are people, and deserve the best we can do for them.”

In June of 2018, the year he retired from the Senate, Hatch gave a speech on the Senate floor expressing his support for the LGBTQ+ community and drawing attention to the high suicide rates among LGBTQ+ youth.

“No one should ever feel less because of their gender identity or sexual orientation,” Hatch said. “LGBT youth deserve our unwavering love and support. They deserve our validation and the assurance that not only is there a place for them in this society, but that it is far better off because of them. These young people need us—and we desperately need them.”

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Statement by President Joe Biden on the Passing of Former Senator Orrin Hatch
Jill and I and the entire Biden family are saddened to learn of the passing of Orrin Hatch, the longest-serving Senator in Utah’s history, and the longest-serving Republican Senator in our nation’s history.

Orrin Hatch once shared in an interview that he had a soft side, and he had a tough side. To serve with Orrin, as I did for over three decades, was to see—and appreciate—both.

He was the fighter who carried with him the memory of his humble upbringing near Pittsburgh, who never humored a bully, or shied from a challenge. The young man who, upon receiving his degree from Brigham Young University, was the first in his family to graduate college; the young lawyer who built a successful law practice; and the Senator who sprinted from meeting to meeting because there was so much to do—indeed, when Senator Hatch retired, he had sponsored or co-sponsored more legislation than any Senator at the time.

I saw that energetic, sharp-elbowed Orrin in the many battles we had over tax policy, the right of workers to join a union, and many others.

At the same time, Senator Hatch was also a man of deep faith; a gentle soul who wrote songs and poems, and shared them with friends, colleagues, and the world. This was the Orrin who looked out for the people who often didn’t have a voice in our laws and our country. I saw this in his efforts to pass the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

When I first launched the Cancer Moonshot as Vice President, one of the first visits I made was to the Huntsman Cancer Institute in Salt Lake City, at Orrin’s request. We both saw speeding the pace of cancer research as an issue that transcended political divisions.

When I cast my 10,000th vote in the Senate, Orrin came to the Senate floor and we had a chance to speak. I said that the greatest perk one has as a Senator was access to people with serious minds, a serious sense of purpose, and who cared about something. That was Orrin.

He was, quite simply, an American original.

Jill and I send our deepest sympathies to Elaine, and all of the Hatch children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

Former senator Orrin Hatch passes away at 88:

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