Salt Lake City elects first openly gay mayor — amid setbacks

Former Utah lawmaker Jackie Biskupski poses for photograph after she was elected Salt Lake City's first openly gay mayor, Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2015, in Salt Lake City. Official election results released Tuesday, show the 49-year-old Biskupski defeated two-term incumbent Ralph Becker. Her win marks a milestone for the LGBT community in the conservative state.

Former Utah lawmaker Jackie Biskupski poses for photograph after she was elected Salt Lake City's first openly gay mayor, Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2015, in Salt Lake City. Official election results released Tuesday, show the 49-year-old Biskupski defeated two-term incumbent Ralph Becker. Her win marks a milestone for the LGBT community in the conservative state. AP Photo/Rick Bowmer

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Former Utah lawmaker Jackie Biskupski on Tuesday became the first openly gay mayor of Salt Lake City, the capital of the conservative state where the Mormon church and a small town judge delivered setbacks last week to the LGBT community.

The victory by Biskupski marked another milestone for LGBT people in Utah who have made major strides in recent years.

“Today is not just about making history,” Biskupski said. “It is about people. It is about affecting change.”

Her supporters cheered when the results were read at an elections canvass meeting.

Two-term incumbent Ralph Becker showed no reaction and later congratulated Biskupski and vowed to work with her to ensure a smooth transition.

Official election results showed Biskupski won 52 percent of the votes to defeat Becker.

“Serving as mayor of Salt Lake City has been the richest working experience of my life,” Becker told reporters.

Salt Lake City voters also elected Derek Kitchen, who became the second gay member of the City Council.

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

Biskupski takes over after progress on gay rights was temporarily marred in recent weeks when a judge ordered a foster child to be removed from a lesbian couple and placed with a heterosexual couple. The judge cited the child’s well-being as the reason for his order.

The ruling set off a firestorm around the state and nation. The judge quickly reversed his decision and took himself off the case.

Days earlier, the Salt Lake City-based Mormon church issued new rules targeting gay members and their children, prompting widespread backlash. The new policy bans baptisms for children of gay parents until the kids turn 18 and disavow same-sex relationships.

Biskupski is not a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and said she hopes the faith reconsiders the policy. She said one of her goals as mayor is to meet with church leaders and discuss the new rules.

Biskupski declined to discuss the church policy further Tuesday, saying she wanted to meet with Mormon officials first.

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