Salt Lake City elected their 35th mayor on November 3, and it was a historic result.
Former State Representative Jackie Biskupski narrowly defeated incumbent mayor Ralph Becker, who was trying to win a 3rd term as mayor.
However, beyond the routine election, there is an even more significant result. After being the first lesbian state legislator, Biskupski is now the first openly lesbian mayor in Salt Lake City’s history.
In the nation’s most conservative state, and in a city that is home to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, which has been an opponent of same-sex marriage, Biskupski’s election is a stunning one.
Republican State Representative Fred Cox, who is a supporter of traditional marriage, endorsed Biskupski. In the past, he also has endorsed Mel Nimer, an openly gay Republican.
“When I look at a candidate, I consider everything I know…whether someone agrees with my views on marriage, might affect a vote or an endorsement. How they treat me based on my views may be more of an issue. Do they make fun of my beliefs on marriage? Do they treat me poorly because we don’t agree? Do they call me names because we differ? Neither Jackie nor Mel have.”
Cox supported Biskupski partly because of past work in the legislature they had done together: “Any contact or help I have needed since, she has treated me with respect and help, even when we didn’t agree.” He also says that he believes that she was the most fiscally conservative of the two candidates.
As to the significance of Biskupski’s election, different people took different sides.
Equality Utah, an LGBT Rights group, released a statement on their Facebook page, saying that Biskupski’s victory “sends a powerful message to all LGBTQ Utahns that their sexual orientation will never be a limitation to public service. We look forward to working alongside Mayor Biskupski to advance policies that will benefit all Utahns”
What does her victory mean for the future of LGBT candidates in Utah? Certainly, Salt Lake City is predominantly more liberal than the rest of Utah, and also has fewer Mormons. This leaves many to wonder if this is simply a demonstration of Salt Lake’s independent streak, or if it can be a statewide-opening for LGBT candidates in Utah. Only time will tell.