LGBT advocates speak out after Day of Silence

A leading gay-rights advocate in the state lashed out against a potential state constitutional amendment that would ban gay marriage and called this November’s election “the most important in history for LGBT people” both in Utah and nationally.

“Equal rights should never be voted on, but that’s what is going to happen. This is about discrimination,” said Equality Utah Executive Director Michael Mitchell.

Mitchell spoke to a crowd of about 30 people on the steps of the Park Building on Wednesday afternoon to usher out the National Day of Silence in the capstone event, “Breaking the Silence.”

Sara Hogan, Associated Students of the University of Utah senior class president elect, joined Mitchell on the steps of the Park Building at Tuesday afternoon’s rally.

“I stand before you as a minority, a woman, a heterosexual and an LGBT ally unapologetically and unashamedly,” Hogan said.

Hogan also pushed administrators to include transgendered people into the U’s policies governing discrimination and hate crimes.

The rally was organized to mark the end of the National Day of Silence-a silent protest designed to create awareness and understanding surrounding gay issues on campuses across the country.

More than 600 universities participated in this year’s movement.

Mitchell said the message behind the day-long silent protest shouldn’t be overlooked.

“The Day of Silence is a sobering reminder of what can happen if we let ourselves be erased…We are not going away. We will never ever be silent again and we will have equality and freedom,” he said.

Mitchell also criticized gay marriage opponents for turning the gay marriage debate into a morality play.

“Our opponents have whipped themselves into a foaming lather over our relationships. We pose no detriment to their relationships,” he said.

He also spoke on the importance of shooting down HJR 25-the state constitutional amendment banning gay marriage-in the same round of elections.

Mitchell pointed to the fact that Utah employers can legally fire employees based on their sexual orientation or a hospital’s right to not recognize a partner as the next of kin to a sick loved one.

“We have broken the silence today. I’m asking that you speak your truth any way you can,” he said.

Following the two speakers, participants and non participants in the National Day of Silence took time to share their thoughts on what the day meant to them.

“I didn’t participate in the Day of Silence, but a lot of my good friends did, and not having their voices in my life was incredibly hard,” according to one student.

Nicholas George, a junior majoring in film studies, said events like the National Day of Silence bring attention to issues surrounding the gay community at the U and elsewhere-though it does have its challenges.

“It was hard in the aspect that everyone wanted to know why we were doing what we were doing,” he said.

Instead, participants handed out cards explaining their stance and why they chose to remain silent.

But George said the three days of activity around Breaking the Silence served a larger purpose than educating a core group of students.

“Having events like this helps the voice get out there, and I feel like if I’m not going to do this, who is?” he said.

Breaking the Silence and the U’s participation in the National Day of Silence was a partnership between the Lesbian and Gay Student Union and the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered Resource Center.

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