Monday, January 21, 2008

Martin Luther King Day - A day on, not a day off

I found my MLK pins in my jewelry stash today as I was organizing my room.

Today is the first MLK day in years that I have not been "anxiously engaged." I was, actually anxiously engaged trying to organize my first true home in eight months. I hung pictures, placed candles, great books - even a NIV of the Bible - listened to Bob Marley and Rent while I worked.

I learned that in 2000, Utah was the very last state to recognize Martin Luther King Day by name, renaming its Human Rights Day state holiday. ...

Utah is a state full of dichotomies. ERA, blacks and the priesthood and now gay rights. Utahans are fiercely independent and will not make a move on civil rights issues unless COMPELLED by government and the occasional ousted BYU professor - think - Jefferey Nielson.

I read his thoughtful op-ed in the Tribune a couple of years and wondered what the fallout would be. As predicted, he was ousted from BYU - hey, he wasn't a tenured professor and Utah is a "right to work" state, so what the heck. Fortunately, he is teaching at Westminster College - a fabulous liberal arts college that celebrates diversity of thought and staff. Indeed, the Inclusion Center is now housed on its beautiful campus.

I met the quiet-spoken and unassuming Jeffery Nielsen at one of many "behind closed door" meetings I attended in Utah. What I found at that time remarkable, and still do, is that this man had no gay friends, relatives or even acquaintances. He saw an injustice and tried to make a statement - It was a brave move - He has a few children to support and a supportive wife. When I heard him say that he had been released from his church job and that "they" had threatened to take away the thing that devout Mormons hold so close to their heart - the sacred piece of paper with 3 signatures indicating their level of honesty, integrity and worthiness are such that they can enter the house of the Lord. I was outraged, and told him to sue the "church" - how dare they take away his temple recommend? He accepted his fate without question. They didn't dare take any disciplinary action - can you imagine the fallout?

Today marks the start of the Utah Legislative session. They don't take the day off. They will spend hours debating gay and straight clubs, domestic partner benefits - Gayle Ruzicka and her eaglets will be there en masse to ensure that their agenda is forwarded. I listened to Gayle speak at a debate right before I left Utah. While I admire her tenacity, passion and beliefs, organizing strengths, the woman is misguided in her mission. She compared gay rights to the "discrimination" her 12 or 17 children receive in various Utah Universities. They are treated differently by professors by virtue of their last name - she claims that she would not expect to pass a law outlawing this treatment. She is woefully misinformed and really should check in with her alleged gay friends instead of passing hateful legislation aimed at segregation and allowing only the "majority" in Utah to have a voice.

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