Why Biskupski’s Victory Matters

Jordan GarnA decade and a half after making history as the first openly gay member of the Utah Legislature, Jackie Biskupski is at it again—now officially named as the Salt Lake City’s Mayor-elect. 

The trailblazing politician will forever hold a place in history two times over in a state often viewed as synonymous with a different, albeit opposite, type of pioneer. Utah—whose pristine landscapes are sometimes overshadowed by its conservative culture and politics—has long struggled with extending equality for members of the LGBTQ community.  As recently as the late nineties, for example, the archaic yet powerful Eagle Forum unsuccessfully lobbied then-Speaker of the House, Marty Stephens, to not seat Biskupski in the House despite being lawfully elected. Fortunately, the Speaker chose to seat the duly elected representative who served with distinction and was re-elected six times.  

Perhaps the only thing that casts a larger shadow than the LDS Church Office Building is the figurative shadow that the Church projects over policy relating to LGBTQ issues—and the results are mixed.  In just the last year, the LDS Church has seemingly equivocated on how to treat LGBTQ citizens—spearheading non-discrimination legislation, on the one hand, but polemically precluding progeny of homosexual couples from baptism and other church blessings on the other. 

Now, Jackie is faced with two daunting tasks: leading the Beehive State’s capital city to historic heights and serving as a symbolic leader in the battle for equal rights and protections for the LGBTQ community.  Before the election results were even formally announced, Biskupski warmly embraced the second role, offering to meet with LDS officials to discuss its highly publicized and controversial aforementioned baptismal ban.

Fortunately for Salt Lake City residents, Mayor-elect Biskupski is well-equipped to serve both roles.  Jackie isn’t just Salt Lake City’s lesbian mayor – she is a mayor for everyone: gay, straight, rich, poor, religious or agnostic.  Her distinguished tenure in the Legislature made her sexual orientation merely a footnote and her service as Mayor will do the same. Her resume is rich with policy and administrative experience that uniquely positions her to address economic development, homelessness and other pressing issues facing the state’s most populous city.  

And if her election happens also to serve as a reminder that one’s qualifications—not sexual orientation—should dictate the trajectory of our lives, all the better.

Whether they were cognizant of it or not, Salt Lake City voters managed to kill two birds with one stone.