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Prince Research Excerpts on Gay Rights & Mormonism – “07 – Salt Lake City Gay Scene”

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07 – Salt Lake City Gay Scene


“A Brief History of Lesbians and Gays in Utah

1948: Elvin Gerrard and Lee Caputo, two straight business partners, open the Radio City bar.  The Salt Lake City club evolves into a gay bar which still operates today.  Radio City is believed to be the oldest gay bar in Utah.…

1972: Utah chapter of the Metropolitan Community Church, a Christian fellowship with outreach to gays and lesbians, founded.

Joe Redburn opens The Sun Tavern.…

1978: First Gay Pride Day event in Utah, Leonard Matlovich, a Mormon homosexual who earned a purple heart in Vietnam, speaks in Salt Lake City.  When he later dies of AIDS, his tombstone reads, ‘They gave me a medal for killing two men and a discharge for loving one.’

First gay protest – against Anita Bryant, who sang at State Fair Grounds.

Bob Waldrop, pastor of the Metropolitan Community Church, sues the state to be allowed to hold same-sex dances in the Capitol Rotunda, events similar to those held regularly by Mormon stakes.  Wins case.  Legislature then bans all dances.

Salt Lake Affirmation, a support group for gay and lesbian Mormons, is founded.…

1982: The Salt Lake Men’s Choir formed.…

1988: The Phoenix Foundation, later called Evergreen Foundation, an organization dedicated to helping Mormon men overcome their homosexuality, founded.…

1990: First Gay and Lesbian Pride March in Salt Lake City.”

(“A Brief History of Lesbians and Gays in Utah,” Salt Lake Tribune, March 27, 1995)


“The Salt Lake City School Board faces an unenviable task as it ponders whether or not too permit student homosexual clubs to meet in public high school facilities.…

But if one thing is clear at this point, it is that whatever the board does should reflect community values—values that have long viewed homosexual practices as a serious problem to be combated rather than merely pitied or tolerated, let alone abetted.…

It is still appalling that more than half the identified hate crimes in Utah are aimed at homosexuals.…

The trouble is that the school board cannot permit these clubs without at least it appearing to sanction the practice of homosexuality and opening the clubs or even those for, say, gangs and drug users.

Nor can the board or any other body blink away the fact that homosexual practices are illegal as well as immoral for thoroughly justifiable reasons.…

For many centuries, a wide variety of nations and cultures have outlawed homosexuality long before its association with AIDS because of the great harm it does to society’s basic unit, the family.

If, despite all this, federal law is still deemed to mandate clubs for homosexuals in schools where other student clubs are permitted, then such an inappropriate interpretation should be challenged in the courts or the law should be rewritten—no matter how long it takes.

The bottom line is that homosexual activities and practices are an abomination, not just some ‘alternate lifestyle’ no better or worse than others.

Keep in mind, too, that as far as society is concerned the problem is not so much with people who experience homosexual tendencies and impulses but exercise self-discipline and do not act on them. Rather, the problem is with active, practicing homosexuals who do not change or in some cases do not even want or try to change. Most serious of all is the problem created when some aggressive activists seek to make society weaken or even discard tested improved moral standards or at least make the public feel guilty about not accepting homosexuality’s practitioners and promoters on their own terms.…

Compassion and understanding do not require or even excuse steps that would imply the official approval of homosexuality. It’s time to draw a clear line that must not be crossed. The challenge now before the Salt Lake City School Board provides an opportunity to do just that.” (“Clubs for homosexuals or no school clubs at all?” Deseret News editorial, February 11, 1996)

Gary Watts wrote the following letter to the editor the day after the editorial was published:

“…  It is obvious to the reader that the writer has never considered the possibility that homosexual relationships may be just as moral or immoral as heterosexual relationships. To arbitrarily label all homosexual relationships as an abomination and immoral is not only inaccurate, but insensitive and intolerant.…

The writer also states, ‘if one thing is clear at this point, it is that whatever the board does should reflect community values.’ Exactly what are our community values, anyway? To love our neighbor as ourselves, to do unto others as we would have them do to us, and to not be judgmental are, in my opinion, the values I cherish most. Community values should certainly be considered, but any decision the board makes should be based on correct information. Most everyone agrees that a school board making a decision about segregation in the public schools in the 1950s would be making an egregious mistake to base their decision on the ‘community values’ that viewed racial segregation is justifiable.”


“’Owning gay bars for the last 30 years has had no effect on me, not at all.  Running a gay bar in Salt Lake City, two blocks from the temple had no affect on me, but probably made the LDS Church nervous. But they just acted like we weren’t there.’…

Many people have commented to Joe [Redburn] that he helped them come out of the closet.  Joe would look at them and say, ‘God, I don’t even know you.’ But what they meant was that they had a gay bar to go to and be themselves during their personal coming out process.…” (“Joe Redburn: Celebrating 30 Years in the Gay Bar Business,” Pillar of the Gay and Lesbian Community, February 2004, p. 6)


“Just two weeks before the devastating International Women’s Years conference in Utah, Barbara B. Smith, general president of the LDS Relief Society, sent a telegram to Bryant, saying,

“On behalf of the one million members of the Relief Society…we commend you for your courageous and effective efforts in combatting homosexuality and laws which would legitimize this insidious life style. We congratulate you on the overwhelming victory of your forces in Florida’s Dade County elections. We stand with you in your worthy efforts to strengthen the family and the home, the cornerstone of America’s strength. Thinking men and women across our nation, concerned about the moral fiber of our country, will join also in the fight against the disruptive influences to our homes such as pornography, homosexuality and growing permissiveness.”

… Adding fuel to the fire, Utah State Fair director Hugh C. Bringhurst announced on June 28 that Anita Bryant, “songstress and antigay rights publicist” would be singing and holding a rally at the Fair on September 18, 1977.…

In response to Gay organizing against the former “beauty queen turned fruit-juice peddler”, on July 9, Mormon Apostle Mark E. Petersen claimed in an editorial in the Church News that “every right-thinking person will sustain Miss Bryant, a prayerful, upright citizen, for her stand”, which Petersen hoped would “keep this evil from spreading, by legal acceptance, through our society.” In November of that same year, Spencer Kimball, now church president, told reporters that Bryant was “doing a great service” because church leaders feel that “the homosexual program is not a natural and normal way of life.” Yet when asked if Kimball fully “endorsed” Bryant’s campaign, Kimball felt that he would not go that far.

On June 29, 1977, House Bill 3 (HB3), by LDS Rep. Georgia Peterson, R-Salt Lake, fresh from her controversial victory at the IWY Conference, passed the Utah State House of Representatives by a landslide vote of 71 to 3, making “homosexual marriages in the state of Utah…illegal”.  The Deseret News noted that “the issue of homosexual marriages was not even discussed on the floor of the House”, there being no question of voting in favor of the homophobic bill.

Toward the end of the month, two non-Mormon anti-Gay editorials appeared in the pages of the Mormon-owned Deseret News, one by a nationally syndicated reporter and conservative Catholic professor of religion at Syracuse University, Dr. Michael Novak, and the other by Jewish professor of child development at the University of Utah, Dr. Elliott Landau.” (Connell O’Donovan, “’The Abominable and Detestable Crime Against Nature’:  A Revised History of Homosexuality & Mormonism, 1840-1980,” 2004)


Utah congressman Gunn McKay (D-Utah) announced to the press in September 1977 that, “I do not believe that the Gay’s right to be free from discrimination is greater than the right to live and work in a community whose moral standards reject homosexual activity. People should not be compelled against their will to hire, rent to, or have their children taught by homosexuals.” Utah Supreme Court Justice, Albert Ellett, ruled in favor of Salt Lake City’s obscenity ordinances in November 1977. In upholding the ordinances, the Mormon judge born in Alabama controversially denounced “depraved, mentally deficient, mind-warped queers” in his judicial opinion. The website for the University of Missouri School of Law nominates Ellett’s decision for “the most intemperate judicial opinion of all time”.  (Connell O’Donovan, “’The Abominable and Detestable Crime Against Nature’:  A Revised History of Homosexuality & Mormonism, 1840-1980,” 2004)


“[p. 54] A national discussion of homosexuality followed Deputy Undersecretary of State John Peurifoy’s revelation to a U.S. Senate Committee that the majority of State Department dismissals from 1947 to 1949 involved homosexuality. Coming on the heels of Communist victory in China, the Soviet Union developing an atomic bomb, and the Alger Hiss espionage scandal which also involved homosexual allegations, Peurifoy’s testimony provoked what historian David Johnson describes as a ‘lavender scare’ that outlived the McCarthy Era. During this period, the federal government tagged gay men and lesbians as security risks and portrayed them as disloyal and dangerous. Homosexuality became the target of U.S. Senate inquiries, a presidential executive order, and specialized federal security task forces charged with weeding out suspected homosexuals from all branches of the federal government and its agencies overseas.…

[p. 55] At issue was whether Utah should follow the lead of other states in passing a sexual psychopath law. By 1955, twenty-six states and the District of Columbia had adopted such laws. While their definitions varied, sexual psychopath laws shared the premise that certain types of sex offenses were motivated by mental illness and should be dealt with through institutionalization and treatment rather than imprisonment.…

[p. 56] When Donald Webster Cory’s paperback edition of The Homosexual in America appeared in 1963, all but three states-Vermont, New Hampshire, and Illinois-had laws criminalizing sodomy.… By prosecuting consensual acts of pleasure as well as cases involving force or violence, sodomy statutes led to conflation in the public [p 57] imagination of homosexuals and violent sex offenders. Furthermore, given the statutes’ disproportionate application to homosexual behavior, the public perceived them as laws criminalizing homosexual status rather than specific acts. In subsequent years, this association of homosexuality with criminality became a rationale for discrimination against gay men and lesbians in such areas as employment, housing, and child custody.…” 

[p. 196] This chapter examines efforts by Salt Lake’s gays to be seen and heard in the 1970s. During that period, the concentrated, intimate community creating refuge in a handful of public places was superseded by ‘community’ as a political construct, an idea if not an ideal, reflecting the new post-Stonewall consciousness. In particular, I examine how the adversarial relation between gay activists and the LDS Church brought about a [p. 197] deepening, mutual politicization. In dialectical fashion, gays’ increased visibility and assertiveness prompted more explicit denunciations by LDS Church leaders, which in turn spurred gay activists to abandon an initial caution and level their criticisms directly at the church. As Spencer W. Kimball took the helm as ‘prophet, seer, and revelator,’ giving greater scope to his antigay views as official LDS doctrine, gays ‘outed’ the church’s tactics and challenged its use of the media, psychiatry, and law enforcement to regulate their lives. In so doing, they framed the church’s policies as a political issue affecting gays everywhere, not just in Utah, in light of Kimball’s international stature.…

[p. 204] Caution toward the church characterized an otherwise groundbreaking 1973 piece in the Salt Lake Tribune’s Common Carrier series. In ‘Homosexuals Have Rights Too’ an underemployed secondary school teacher, Sherman Beutler, made a provocative plea for legalizing private, consensual homosexuality as ‘an acceptable part of pluralistic American society.’ Although he challenged stereotypes of promiscuity and sickness commonly ascribed to gays, Beutler made no reference to Kimball’s statements. Beutler also condemned ‘witch hunt’ tactics such as those employed in the 1955 Boise sodomy cases, without mentioning similar practices at BYU. Likewise, during the Salt Lake Gayzette’s first two years of publication, opinion pieces directed their ire against a generic ‘straight society.’ For all appearances, the articles could have originated in any city.…

[p. 220] According to a 1977 Salt Lake Tribune poll based on 602 interviews representing a cross-section of Utah adults, Utahns favored discrimination against gays overall by a roughly five to three margin. However, while a majority of LDS and non- LDS respondents, 75 percent and 64 percent, respectively, opposed equal rights for gays as teachers or ministers, 62 percent of the LDS participants also favored discrimination against gays in business and government professions, versus 38 percent of the non-LDS.… (Douglas A. Winkler, “Lavender Sons of Zion: A History of Gay Men in Salt Lake City, 1950-79,” PhD Dissertation, University of Utah, May 2008)


“Then there’s Salt Lake City’s queer community, whose smart, creative and coalition-building strategies could provide a model for gay activists across the country.

That last claim requires a bit of explanation. Last fall I lived in Salt Lake City. As a leftist and New York City dyke, I had expected to find a conservative city and a quietly assimilationist gay community. Instead, I was repeatedly blown away by the progressive politics and outright queerness of the capital city, which is about 40 percent Mormon.…” (Lisa Duggan, “What’s Right With Utah,” The Nation, June 24, 2009)


“According to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Youth: An Epidemic of Homelessness, a report released in 2009 by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Policy Institute and the National Coalition for the Homeless, estimated that between 20–40 percent of the nation’s two million homeless youth identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

In Utah, that number is higher. In QSaltLake’s story on youth homelessness last year, Zach Bale, then director of Salt Lake City’s Homeless Youth Resource Center, determined that 43 percent of its clients (who range between 16–21 years of age) identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or ‘other than straight’ in the 2008–2009 fiscal year.…” (“Homeless Gay Youth in Utah: Challenges and Changes,” Q Salt Lake, November 11, 2010)


“More than ever before, same-sex couples living together in Utah are reporting their relationships in the U.S. Census. The number of households headed by gay and lesbian couples shot up by 73 percent over the past decade — and they now account for about one of every 150 households here, according to 2010 Census data released Thursday. In contrast, the total number of Utah households grew by 25 percent.

‘Much of the increase is due to an increased willingness to report as opposed to Utah suddenly getting a surge of same-sex couples willing to move there, or that suddenly the [lesbian, gay and bisexual] population coupled at an increased rate,’ said Gary Gates, a demographer at the University of California-Los Angeles Williams Institute.

Gates has noticed similar surges in other conservative states…

Meanwhile, the number of heterosexual couples living together in Utah without marrying also skyrocketed by 66 percent, and they now head one of every 25 households in the state.…” (Rosemary Winters, “Census: Gay couple households boom in Utah,” Salt Lake Tribune, July 28, 2011)


“Salt Lake City doesn’t have the most same-sex couple households or even the most LGBT book stores, but it is the ‘gayest’ city in America, according to The Advocate magazine.

‘While those unfamiliar with the Beehive State are likely to conjure images of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, far-less-oppressive-than-it-used-to-be Salt Lake City has earned its queer cred,’ writes Matthew Breen for The Advocate, a national magazine for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.

The survey ignores obvious picks such as New York and San Francisco to rank ‘less expected’ places in the third annual list, using admittedly ‘subjective’ criteria…” (Rosemary Winters, “Salt Lake City named America’s ‘gayest’ burg,” Salt Lake Tribune, January 9, 2012)


“The majority of Utah voters oppose gay marriage, but attitudes toward some legal recognition of same-sex relationships have changed dramatically over the past eight years, according to recent survey data from the Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy at Brigham Young University.

‘Utah is seeing the same kind of movement that we see in the United States generally,’ said Chris Karpowitz, a BYU political science professor and fellow at the center. ‘We’re getting massive change in public opinion in a very short period of time.’

‘What makes Utah voters different,’ Karpowitz says, is that they are moving ‘not toward full support of marriage equality but toward civil unions.’

The poll found 72 percent of Utah voters oppose gay marriage. At the same time, 71 percent now favor some form of legal recognition, compared to 62 percent nationally, as reported in CBS/New York Times surveys.…

In the 2012 Utah survey, 43 percent of voters supported civil unions, and 28 percent supported same-sex marriage. Nationally, 24 percent favor civil unions and 38 percent favor same-sex marriage.

Using two election exit polls and two surveys of voter panels derived from those exit polls, the Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy has collected data on attitudes toward gay marriage at four time points beginning in 2004. That year, 54 percent of Utah voters opposed any form of legal recognition for same-sex relationships. The number dropped to 37 percent in 2009, 35 percent in 2010 and fell again to 29 percent in the new latest poll.…” (Eric Schulzke, “Majority of Utahns oppose gay marriage, but attitudes shift toward civil unions, BYU poll finds,” Deseret News, July 9, 2012)


“To a young homosexual awakening to his or her sexual orientation in Utah, there were no positive role models in the 1950s to which one could aspire. Society’s predominant view of homosexuality was typified by the Salt Lake Tribune editorial board’s opinion that it was a ‘social evil that must be fought.’ The Idaho Statesman, even more virulent, called homosexuals ‘monsters’ to be crushed. Virtually all editors of newspapers along the Rocky Mountain region called homosexuality everything from ‘moral perversion’ to a ‘cancerous growth.’ Children learned at an early age that to be called ‘queer’ was about as demeaning as any name-calling could be.

Homosexuals in Utah were virtually invisible because the concept of homosexuality was revolting to the general public who viewed it akin to a social disease. The archives of Utah’s largest circulated newspaper, Salt Lake Tribune, revealed few articles on homosexuality from 1950 to 1959 and those were mostly in regards to criminal conduct and national security. The Deseret News was even less inclined to report on homosexuality as if the very mention of it might incline some to indulge in the practice. These few news reports would have been all a homosexual in the 1950s saw him or herself portrayed in the media.

For Utah homosexuals of the 1950s it was mostly a time of quiet desperation. Sexually active homosexuals guarded their sexual identity closely without any institutional or community support. The legal system regarded them as sex offenders, perverts, molesters, deviants, unnatural, degenerates and security risks. All churches of the 1950s viewed homosexuals as immoral reprobates and sinners, while society described them in a whole catalog of disparaging names; queer, faggot, sissy, pansy, fruit, pretty boy, pervert, effeminate, tom-boy, lezzie, lesbo, dyke. It was a bleak time to be gay.

In heterosexual society, homosexuals were also viewed as a threat to national security. Dwight Eisenhower, upon assuming the presidency in 1953, banned employment of homosexuals. His Executive Order 10450 stated that ‘sexual perversion’ was a condition for firing a federal employee and for denying employment to potential applicants.…

On July 2, 1953 the Deseret News featured the headline ‘107 Fired in State Department’ underscoring the new government-sanctioned discrimination against homosexuals, which would last for next two decades. The entire weight and authority of the United States was now against the queer ‘menace.’

Still, the 1950s should not only be remembered as time of intense persecution, but also as the start of a rudimentary gay movement in America. The Mattachine Society and the lesbian organization, Daughters of Bilitis, were two early ‘homophile’ organizations which heroically promoted positive images of homosexuals in an era of extreme prejudice.… 

The Mattachine Society was started when Harry Hay, a disillusioned former member of the American Communist Party, along with a handful of other California homosexuals, met behind closed curtains in the Silver Lake District of Los Angeles in April 1951. These men created the first organization since the 1920s, to promote the ideal that homosexuals were a sexual minority and deserving of civil rights and freedom from persecution. The Mattachine Society’s name was chosen from a medieval term for a truth teller, and for two decades was the largest national homosexual organization in America.…

The Daughters of Bilitis was formed in 1955 by a lesbian couple, Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon. It was the first lesbian civil and political rights organization in the United States and mobilized homosexual women into a distinct and separate political movement from that of homosexual males. Martin and Lyon, at the age of 87 and 83 years, were the first same-sex couple to wed in San Francisco after the California Supreme Court’s decision legalized same-sex marriage in California briefly in 2008. Two months later Martin died.…” (“A bleak beginning for gay rights,” Q Salt Lake, January 24, 2013)


“There are no exact figures on the number of homeless youths in Utah who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and who are also Mormon.

But two organizations estimate the figure could be upward of 200 adolescents — many of whom need help to build a life off the streets after parents shunned them for coming out.

Ogden OUTreach Resource Center officials will launch a new project named Safe and Sound, aimed to assist in particular, but not exclusively, LGBT Mormon youths and their families.…

There are no youth shelter beds in Utah.…” (Ray Parker, “Groups team up to reach out to homeless LGBT Mormon youths,” Salt Lake Tribune, January 25, 2013)


“Gay men and women from Salt Lake City’s Anti-War Movement, Women’s Liberation Movement, and the ecology movement organized and began attracting attention on the University of Utah’s campus in the early 1970s.…

In 1972, Salt Lake City’s first gay bath house opened and in 1973 gay activist and radio talk-show host, Joe Redburn, opened The Sun Tavern on the corner of 400 West and South Temple as an openly gay bar owned by a gay man.…

For the remainder of the 1970s the gay community in Salt Lake City grew exponentially. The first community protest and demonstration occurred in 1977 at the Utah State Fairgrounds, which featured singer Anita Bryant.…

In the 1970s, Utah received national attention due to the fact the editor of the Advocate, a national gay magazine, was a gay man from Price, Utah. He published in the magazine, on a regular basis, news about the gay communities struggles against oppression, especially the gay students who were being tortured and persecuted at Brigham Young University.…

The gay and lesbian bars, and bath houses were Radio City Lounge at 147 South State (‘The Original and first Rocky Mountain gay bar’), The Sun Tavern at 1 S. 400 West (largest gay complex in the Rocky Mountain area.), The Uptown Place at 15 S. 400 West (‘serving the lesbian community’), The Comeback Club at 551 S. 300 West, The Rail opened east of the Sun Tavern  at 363 W. South Temple, Studio 8 at 8 W. 200 South, Bogart’s at 1225 Wilmington Avenue in Sugar House, Bobby’s First Endeavor on 12th Street below Wall Avenue in Ogden.  The GYM, (Jeff’s Gym) was located at 727 W. 1700 South, and Club 14 was at 1414 W. 200 South.

Utah was especially unique in that the newly organized KRCL FM 91 had a local gay program from the beginning called Gayjavu which would become Concerning Gays and Lesbians for the next 20 years. Stephen Holbrook, a gay man who founded KRCL, was dedicated to Utah’s gay minority having a voice.…” (Ben Williams, “The Beginning of Utah’s gay community,” Q Salt Lake, May 25, 2014)


“’So this guy comes in with a sawed-off shotgun’ • As the manager and owner of the Sun Tavern, once Utah’s most prominent gay bar, Nikki Boyer became the mother hen of an LGBT scene that in the 1970s and ’80s was finding its place somewhere between the underground and the open air.

‘We had no rights, but we were rich in gay bars,’ recalls Boyer, now 72. ‘This is where we felt safe. It was the only place we felt safe. We were afraid to go outside because of the gay bashers.’

One night while she was tending bar, a basher came to them. A man burst through the door, brandishing a sawed-off shotgun.

‘Immediately about three big women jumped up, grabbed him, grabbed the gun, took him outside, and proceeded to pummel him,’ she says.…” (Erin Alberty, “Longtime Utah LGBT advocates recount brutal history,” Salt Lake Tribune, October 8, 2014)


“A new analysis of Gallup survey data offers the most detailed estimates yet about where people who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender live.

The Gallup analysis finds the largest concentrations in the West — and not just in the expected places like San Francisco and Portland, Ore. Among the nation’s 50 largest metropolitan areas, Denver and Salt Lake City are also in the top 10. How could Salt Lake be there, given its well-known social conservatism? It seems to be a kind of regional capital of gay life, attracting people from other parts of Utah and the Mormon West.…

Historians often trace San Francisco’s role as a gay refuge in part to World War II, when the Navy discharged gay sailors, because of their sexuality, at Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay. Many stayed in the city, which already had a reputation as a welcoming place for refugees and free spirits. Other gay people, in search of a safe place, followed.…

It might seem surprising at first that the city most associated with the Mormon Church — which believes that sex and marriage should occur between only a man and a woman — has the seventh-highest share of L.G.B.T. people, at 4.7 percent. [San Francisco has 6.2 percent; New York City has 4.0 percent.]

But another aspect of the Mormon culture — the importance of community and family — goes a long way toward explaining the pattern, people in Salt Lake City say.…” (David Leonhardt and Claire Cain Miller, “The Metro Areas With the Largest, and Smallest, Gay Populations,” New York Times, March 20, 2015)

Quinn, Same-Sex Dynamics among Nineteenth-Century Americans

[375] “In fact, 1958 was apparently a crucial turning point for the attitudes of LDS leaders toward homosexuality.  The year had begun with a series of highly publicized arrests of men in Salt Lake City for same-sex crimes.  This was the result of the police department’s new strategy of using decoys and surveillance at gay meeting places.”  (D. Michael Quinn, Same-Sex Dynamics among Nineteenth-Century Americans (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1996)


“[p. 85] Skousen was a pivotal figure, embodying both the national security state and an uncompromising, conservative brand of Mormonism. His administration was a harbinger of the LDS Church’s hardening stance toward homosexuality, which reached a fever pitch during the 1960s.” (Douglas A. Winkler, “Lavender Sons of Zion: A History of Gay Men in Salt Lake City, 1950-79,” PhD Dissertation, University of Utah, May 2008)


Boyer: Through the Pride Center we have seen children as young as eleven years old being thrown out of their homes for being gay.  The excuse is, “We don’t want the rest of the family infected.”  How sad is that?

(Nikki Boyer, July 25, 2015)

Jay: I remember one day after I moved up to Salt Lake.  I met a friend and we went to the Salt Lake Temple.  Later on that night we went to a gay club here in Salt Lake and went dancing.  I thought, “This is the coolest city, that you can go to the temple and then go to a gay club and dance.  It’s the best of all worlds!”

(Joseph Jay, June 15, 2014)

Geneva: We didn’t know, until our son came out to us, that he would go to basketball games and football games, and kids kicked him down the stadium steps, calling him “Queer” and “Fag.”  He would walk into a class and somebody would say, “Cover your butt-hole.  Here comes Peterson.”  You cannot imagine—even some of the teachers.

Marv: LDS teachers.

Greg: And you knew none of it at the time?

Geneva: We knew none of it.  He was afraid to tell us.  He would go up on the mountain and stay all day, trying to figure out how he could commit suicide without hurting us, without making it look like it was a suicide.  He had determined that he would drive out in front of a semi sometime and make it look like an accident.  He was so afraid that we would find out.  He didn’t want to hurt us.

(Marvin and Geneva Peterson, March 3, 2015)

Redburn: Salt Lake City hasn’t had a Mormon mayor since 1973, when it was Jake Garn.  So Salt Lake is blue in a sea of red.  It is a liberal city, and people are happy here.  Even Mormons here are not really hardcore, it seems to me.

(Joseph Redburn, April 8, 2015)

Rosky: I took the job around January of 2008.  Officially, I wasn’t on salary until July 1st.  I moved here about June 1st.  I remember the second day I was here there was a Gay Pride Parade.  I was at the Hotel Monaco because my stuff hadn’t arrived yet.  I thought, “Well, I might as well walk out and see the Pride Parade.”  I thought it was going to be 500 people, and there were about 25,000 people.  I thought, “This is a different place than I thought it was!”

(Clifford Rosky, March 31, 2015)

Williams: Then, I moved to Salt Lake City in 1998, and was free at that point to come out.  I finished school at the University of Utah.  In 2001, 9/11 happened, and I became a left-wing activist all of a sudden.  That’s really when it started.  I got a job producing at KRCL radio.  KRCL is a really significant station here.  It’s a 35-year-old station, and it has always been the voice of the progressive left.  It’s a music station, but it has always had this really progressive agenda.  It was the first radio station, in the 80s, to start airing gay and lesbian programming.  They had a show called “Concerning Gays and Lesbians.”  It was so phenomenal—think about that in the 80s.  The station was founded in December of 1979 by Stephen Holbrook, and they started a gay radio show in 1980.  The first program was called “Gayja Vu,” and then it became “Concerning Gays and Lesbians.”  Stephen Holbrook is a gay man and was also a Freedom Rider.  He traveled to the South and got arrested, and had a history of radical activism.

In the height of the AIDS crisis, in the era of Ezra Taft Benson as the Prophet and Ronald Reagan as the President, this scrappy radio station was one of the first stations in the nation to do gay-affirming programming.  The hosts of the show had to use fake names.  They had to be escorted back and forth to their cars.

Prince: Because of credible threats?

Williams: Yes.  They would be threatened all the time.  You have to talk to Ben Williams or Becky Moss or Stan Penfold, who is on the city council now.  They were all early hosts of the show.  When you start talking about how this transformation happened, how did we go from gays being pariahs, it was all about narrative and telling stories, about people finally telling their stories.  One of the first media venues to do that here in Utah was KRCL radio, which was later where I became established.

(Troy Williams, March 30, 2015)