Petters: We Can Actually Change Utah


Jack Gambassi

Keegan Petters, copy editor and opinion writer of the Daily Utah Chronicle, poses on University of Utah campus in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, March 29, 2023. (Photo by Jack Gambassi | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Keegan Petters, Opinion Writer, Copy Editor


As a native of Washington D.C. and northern Virginia, I felt anxiety going into a state known for its hyper-religious atmosphere and oppressive legislature. To my surprise, however, I have greatly enjoyed living in Salt Lake City. I’ve seen the University of Utah student body and other social movement groups come together against cruel legislation, demonstrating a rise of progressivism in Utah. This year has brought a series of challenges to Utah, from abortion amendments to stripping LGBTQ+ rights and the constant fight against climate change. Through it all, a new wave of political movement has grown within the community, particularly among the student body. With an influx of Democratic voters moving to Utah and increased community involvement, change is on the horizon.

Women’s Rights

Women’s rights remain contentious in Utah, with lawmakers passing restrictive abortion laws. But recent years have seen a growing movement to fight for women’s rights. Even rural communities have joined in protest. University of Utah Health has also taken steps to promote emergency contraceptives on their patients’ charts since the overturn of Roe v. Wade. The student body has participated in the outcry against barbaric rulings. Our voices are loud, and we will not stop until equality is assured for all communities.

LGBTQ+ Safe Spaces

Utah has many safe spaces for the LGBTQ+ community, such as Encircle, the Utah Pride Center and other venues. Drag is taking off in St. George, despite ongoing backlash. Pride centers also exist outside of Salt Lake City, showing an expansion of inclusive community. The LGBTQ+ community is strong, and we are united against the shrinking antagonist. I come from an area with overflowing support for expressing your true sexuality. I expected to find few opportunities for such expression here, but I could not have been more wrong.

After publishing my article regarding H.B. 228, which would allow for a form of talkative conversion therapy for LGBTQ+ minors, I received remarkable information from Troy Williams of Equality Utah.

“We spent the past two weeks in negotiations with the sponsors and were able to come to an agreement.” Williams notified me, “The second substitute now prohibits all forms of conversion therapy, including conversion talk therapy. That version passed unanimously through the House and we expect it to also pass through the Senate with bipartisan support.”

Change is coming, and groups like Equality Utah will continue to ensure that it does.


Climate change also poses significant concern for Utah, with the looming threat of the Great Salt Lake drying up and making the state uninhabitable. Students have coordinated with corporations to tackle pollution in Utah and held protests to demand environmental protection. Organizations like the U’s EnviroClub allow students to voice their concerns with the public and coordinate discussions. Climate change is one of the most essential topics to discuss within Utah. While previous generations have left us with a disastrous infrastructure that relies on environmental destruction for prosperity, it’s up to us to change the system.

The Student Body’s Initiative

The student body in Utah leads the charge for change. As a group, we are determined to shift the political environment in Utah for good. The increased involvement of the student body in politics and community activism clearly indicates change. As majority democratic voters move into Utah, we move towards becoming a purple state.

“I feel like our current situation of government has recognized us as a force to be reckoned with,” U student Jacob Martin said. “I’ve been to multiple protests at the Capitol and protests to different places throughout this state. I’ve never seen the sheer numbers and size of people that turn out to these protests in my home state of Oklahoma.”

We demand attention, and politicians understand our ability to shift current legislation in Utah.


I am extremely grateful for my opportunity to explore student initiatives and community impact in Salt Lake City. Opinion writing for the Daily Utah Chronicle has introduced me to many people fighting for change and I’m grateful to have found such like-minded individuals. Despite the challenges Utah has faced this year, there is hope for the future. The student body’s initiative to fight for change and protect women’s rights, create LGBTQ+ safe spaces and tackle climate change will move us towards a more inclusive and diverse community. While there is still work to be done, we’ve come a long way. Utah has the potential to become a state that welcomes all, regardless of their background or beliefs. As a community, we must continue to fight for change and work towards a brighter future. It is not a simple or painless task, but the continual impact we make will have lasting change for the upcoming generations.


[email protected]