Salt Lake City’s first openly gay mayor sworn into office

Jackie Biskupski, left, is sworn in as mayor next to her fiancée, Betty Iverson. Biskupski is Salt Lake City's first openly gay mayor. Salt Lake City, Utah, Jan. 4, 2016 | Photo courtesy of Scott G Winterton of The Deseret News via AP, St. George News

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Jackie Biskupski was sworn in Monday as Salt Lake City’s first openly gay mayor, a landmark the former state lawmaker acknowledged shortly after taking the oath of office.

Biskupski, 49, said the historic moment should not be taken lightly, and noted great strides have been made for LGBT people in the state.

“I know that we have work to do still. And it is work that I take seriously,” she told reporters. “But I am a firm believer that in order for true equality to exist for anyone, we must pursue it for everyone, and that is a goal of mine.”

In a speech on the steps of the city-county building after being sworn in, Biskupski cited a gay rights battle in Utah’s capital city two decades ago that spurred her to enter politics.

After the city’s East High School formed the state’s first gay-straight alliance club in 1995, the Salt Lake City School District banned all noncurricular clubs to try to block it. The district reversed its decision several years later after lawsuits and protests.

“That sparked in me a responsibility to my own community,” Biskupski said Monday.

Jackie Biskupski hugs her sons Jack Iverson and Archie Biskupski following her remarks during the swearing-in ceremony. Biskupski was sworn in as Salt Lake City's first openly gay mayor. Salt Lake City, Jan. 4, 2016 | Photo courtesy of Scott G Winterton of The Deseret News via AP, St. George News
Jackie Biskupski hugs her sons Jack Iverson and Archie Biskupski following her remarks during the swearing-in ceremony. Biskupski was sworn in as Salt Lake City’s first openly gay mayor. Salt Lake City, Jan. 4, 2016 | Photo courtesy of Scott G Winterton of The Deseret News via AP, St. George News

Biskupski said that when she became Utah’s first openly gay lawmaker in 1998, she found common ground to work with people with different ideologies and cultures. She struck a similar note in her speech, pivoting to air quality and economic development. She has said she plans to work on both issues with the conservative, Salt Lake City-based Mormon church.

Her ascension to the mayor’s office comes on the heels of new rules by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints targeting gay members and their children. The new policy, which prompted widespread backlash, bans baptisms for children of gay parents until the kids turn 18 and disavow same-sex relationships.

Biskupski is not a member of the faith and said she hopes the church reconsiders the policy. After her election results were certified, she met with church officials in December and gave them a letter explaining her concerns about the policy. But Biskupski’s campaign said the meeting was largely a discussion about city issues such as air quality and economic development.

LGBT issues also didn’t define the tight race between Biskupski and incumbent Ralph Becker. Salt Lake City is a liberal island in the state where no Republican has been elected mayor in four decades. Becker, a prominent Democrat, also was seen as an ally of the city’s strong LGBT community, and the gay rights group Equality Utah endorsed both candidates.

While the mayor’s race centered more on issues such as bike lanes and billboards, LGBT activists celebrated Biskupski’s win as a milestone in the conservative state.

Jackie Biskupski exits a city building prior to a ceremony to swear her in as mayor.. Biskupski is Salt Lake City's first openly gay mayor. Salt Lake City, Jan. 4, 2016 | Photo courtesy of Scott G Winterton of The Deseret News via AP, St. George News
Jackie Biskupski exits a city building prior to a ceremony to swear her in as mayor.. Biskupski is Salt Lake City’s first openly gay mayor. Salt Lake City, Jan. 4, 2016 | Photo courtesy of Scott G Winterton of The Deseret News via AP, St. George News

During the campaign and after her victory, Biskupski reflected on how the LGBT-movement had progressed in Utah since she was first elected to the state House. She said that at the time, several of her colleagues in the Legislature wouldn’t look her in the eye or shake her hand.

Biskupski served in the House until 2011. After that, she worked in the Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Office.

Along with Biskupski, new Salt Lake City councilman Derek Kitchen was sworn in Monday, becoming the city’s second sitting gay councilman.

Kitchen and his husband, Moudi Sbeity, were one of three couples who sued to overturn the state’s same-sex marriage ban.

New Salt Lake City councilman Andrew Johnston and incumbent councilman Charlie Luke also were sworn in Monday.

Written by: Michelle L. Price, Associated Press

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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16 Comments

  • .... January 4, 2016 at 10:24 pm

    LOL ! I bet the Mormon owned politicians are going to have a field day with this…

  • ladybugavenger January 4, 2016 at 10:48 pm

    Does the Mormon church condemn this?

    • ladybugavenger January 4, 2016 at 10:52 pm

      if someone comes out as open adulterer will they get a parade?

  • .... January 5, 2016 at 8:16 am

    Good luck to her. because she is going to need it ! a gay mayor and a Mormon bigot city council

  • Who January 5, 2016 at 8:45 am

    Leviticus 18:22, “You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination.”1
    Leviticus 20:13, “If there is a man who lies with a male as those who lie with a woman, both of them have committed a detestable act; they shall surely be put to death. Their bloodguiltness is upon them.”

    • .... January 5, 2016 at 11:05 am

      Hey Who ! it’s not illegal to be an ignorant bible thumping narrow minded religious bigot. which is good. because that’s all about what you are

    • 42214 January 5, 2016 at 11:08 am

      That only applies if you believe in that crap. You use Bible verses to hide behind and justify bigotry and discrimination. The LDS have a long and well documented history of racism, discrimination, and bigotry all in the name of the Lord. If God created us in his image there is a good chance He/She is gay.

      • ladybugavenger January 5, 2016 at 7:59 pm

        You’re confused 42214. LDS cult is confusing but God is not gay….the devil on the other hand would want you to believe there is no God and that God might be gay…believe the lies 422 it’s your choice….I think you should call yourself mudslinger… Y’all need Jesus!

        • 42214 January 5, 2016 at 9:58 pm

          I just posed this as an abstract question that is debated in many universities but since you are so positive in the answer I’ll take your word for it. Since you’re an authority, is God male or female? black or white. Y’all got those answers too?

          • ladybugavenger January 6, 2016 at 8:04 pm

            I see. I come in peace….I mean no harm.

    • Chris January 5, 2016 at 11:39 am

      No mention of a woman lying with a woman.

    • Rainbow Dash January 5, 2016 at 11:47 am

      Luke 6:37 “Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven”
      Matthew 7:1 “Judge not, that ye be not judged”.

    • ladybugavenger January 5, 2016 at 12:53 pm

      Who just reply to “….” With a “Don’t Hate Me ‘Cause You Ain’t Me” and go buy a tshirt 🙂 donthatemecauseyouaintme.com

      • .... January 5, 2016 at 10:35 pm

        Yeah I just ordered my ladybug…….
        ‘ Dont hate me ‘Cause you Ain’t Me ‘ T Shirt. Just go to
        # ifyoudontbuyaladybugtshirtyouregonnagetpokedintheeyewithareallybigstick….

  • 42214 January 5, 2016 at 9:50 am

    Now is the perfect time for the LDS Church to put a gay on the Quorum of the 12. A black transgender would cover all the bases.

    • .... January 5, 2016 at 11:01 am

      That would be perfect for mesaman

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