This morning's Pride Parade in Salt Lake City is now Utah's second-largest parade. It celebrates a community that suffers from second-class citizenship in the Beehive State.
The state of Utah, through its elected officials, has constructed a system of laws that denigrate gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Utahns. At every stage in life from the moment a child has an inkling of being gay, during adolescence, throughout adulthood and all the way to the grave LGBT Utahns are haunted by laws that deny their existence, demean them as lesser human beings and denigrate their lives and family relationships.
During the era of Jim Crow, the South used a system of de jure ("by law") segregation to oppress black citizens. Today the state of Utah enforces a system of de jure denigration to discriminate against LGBT Utahns.
Utah's laws governing public education compel the inculcation of negative views towards LGBT people. Utah has prohibited the "advocacy of homosexuality" in its schools. Gay teens are denied not only positive support but potentially life-saving instruction that homosexuality is a normal and healthy variation of human sexuality.
Other statutes make it harder to start a Gay-Straight Alliance at a public high school than to create a business corporation, and require teens to obtain parental consent to join a Gay Straight Alliance. Utah's crusade against Gay-Straight Alliances targets scared LGBT teens to keep them in the closet and isolate them from support and needed affirmation.
Collectively, Utah's education statutes warp reality, propagate false views and stereotypes, create a climate of fear and ignorance about homosexuality and expose gay children to an increased risk of suffering from violence at school. Legal bullying by Utah's elected officials begets bullying on Utah's playgrounds.
The state of Utah effectively prohibits gay couples from jointly adopting the children they are raising. Owing to both a state constitutional amendment and statutes, Utah also denies same-sex couples access to the rights, responsibilities and benefits of legal marriage. This state offers no recognition of gay relationships, no protection from housing or employment discrimination and no hospital visitation or probate rights for same-sex couples.
The state of Utah has thus constructed a comprehensive system of de jure denigration that not only deprives LGBT Utahns of fundamental rights but has left them virtually as strangers to the law.
The Pride Festival salutes those Utahns who are enduring such mistreatment by our laws. We invite all Utahns whether gay or straight, Democrat or Republican, Mormon or not to march in the Pride Parade to celebrate diversity in Utah.
We also call on all Utahns to stand with their LGBT neighbors to demand an end to a shameful era of discrimination by the state of Utah.
Paul C. Burke and Brett L. Tolman led a bipartisan team of lawyers representing the Utah Pride Center to file an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in its pending cases on marriage.