Tribune editorial: Utah leaders follow their people to support LGBT rights

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah representative Steve Eliason, R-Sandy, left, joins Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox as he reads loud, a formal proclamation by Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, declaring July 28, 2018 as "LoveLoud Day in Utah" in honor of the LoveLoud Festival, an event celebrating and supporting LGBT youth. Musicians, advocates of the LGBT community, lawmakers and friends gathered in Salt Lake City for the LoveLoud kickoff on Friday, July 27, 2018.

“I think that people want peace so much that one of these days government had better get out of their way and let them have it.”

— Dwight D. Eisenhower

People want other good things from their government, too. And sometimes their leaders have to catch up.

There’s been a lot of catching up in Utah over the last five years or so.

It wasn’t that long ago that, for example, Gov. Gary Herbert was denouncing “an activist federal judge” for setting aside the state’s ban on same-sex marriage. Or since Sen. Orrin Hatch, among others, was defending the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act.

But over just the last few days and weeks, those same office-holders have gone out of their way to stand up for the full humanity of their LGBT constituents.

Utah Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox helped to kick off the weekend’s LoveLoud Festival, dedicated to raising money and awareness for LGBT youth, by delivering a proclamation, issued by Herbert, marking Saturday as LoveLoud Day in Utah.

“In the state of Utah,” the proclamation begins, “we strive to sustain a culture of hope, love, understanding and respect.”

It goes on to specifically call upon all Utahns to “celebrate our common humanity,” to “refuse to tolerate any bullying or intimidation,” and to recognize LoveLoud for using, “the universal power of music to promote the cause of coming together as a community despite differences.”

That it does.

LoveLoud drew more than 30,000 people to the University of Utah’s Rice-Eccles Stadium Saturday, to a long, loud and successful celebration of equality and humanity and to a fundraiser for organizations that work to help LGBT youth through some soul-crushing experiences and help them see a way forward that does not include suicide. Led by Dan Reynolds, of the band Imagine Dragons, the day also included an appearance by Tim Cook, the CEO of computer giant Apple.

"Let me tell you,” Cook said, "‘normal’ just might be the worst word ever created. We are not all supposed to be the same, feel the same, or think the same. And there is nothing wrong with you.

“I know that life can be dark and heavy, and sometimes might seem unreasonable and unbearable, but just as night turns to day, know that darkness is always followed by light. You will feel more comfortable in our own skin, attitudes will change. Life will get better and you will thrive.”

Among the evidence that attitudes are indeed changing was a Senate floor speech by Hatch, supporting a national three-digit emergency number devoted to suicide prevention. The long-time senator specifically warned of the high rate of suicide among LGBT youth as a problem that needs solving.

“These young people need us — and we desperately need them,” Hatch said. “We need their light to illuminate the richness and diversity of God’s creations. We need the grace, beauty, and brilliance they bring to the world.”

A companion bill, sponsored by Utah’s Rep. Chris Stewart, recently passed the House by a vote of 379-1. Congress should pass a final version soon and send it on to the White House.

There is fear that, as the current administration places more justices on the U.S. Supreme Court, some of the recent decisions supporting marriage equality and other rights for LGBT Americans may be at risk. But we see in Utah some reason to hope that, with or without those rulings, a tide has turned and that support for all our people may, in astonishingly short order, have become normal, even for conservative Republicans in at least one very red state.